ROME, Italy – With three days of sightseeing behind them, the Minnesota men’s basketball team took to the court for the first time during their weeklong Italy tour Tuesday night, coming back from a big deficit to defeat Stella Azzurra Academy, 84-79.
Four Gophers reached double digits, led by 15 points from graduate student Alihan Demir. The Drexel grad was 7-of-11 from the field and also added 10 rebounds for a double-double. Joining him in double figures were sophomore Daniel Oturu and junior Payton Willis with 14 points and 12 points from sophomore Gabe Kalscheur. Sophomore Marcus Carr narrowly missed a double-double with a game-high 11 rebounds to go with nine points.
“Offensively, we have a pretty good team,” said head coach Richard Pitino. “Defensively, we have a ways to go; we’re not real connected. If one mistake happens we have to learn how to make up for it. That was good competition for us.”
The Gophers trailed by double-digits after the first quarter of play, 32-20, but used a big second period to close to within three at the halftime intermission. Stella Azzurra, who had faced fellow Big Ten member Nebraska one day earlier, still led after three quarters but the Maroon and Gold outscored the hosts by six points in the final frame to take the win.
After starting their trip in the capital city of Rome, the Gophers head to Florence on Wednesday morning, where their next competition awaits one day later.