Richard Pitino switched up his starting lineup Thursday to include freshmen Isaiah Ihnen and Tre’ Williams, who were the top two recruits in the Gophers' 2019 recruiting class.
Ihnen and Williams showed why they could be potential impact players this season with 19 points each in a convincing 108-68 win against Tuscan Select in Florence.
The Gophers are now 2-0 on their foreign tour in Italy. They were much more prepared to play after being tested earlier in the week. Pitino's squad jumped out to a 31-11 lead after the first quarter Thursday. Two days ago, the U faced a 16-point deficit but came back to beat Stella Azzurra Academy 84-79 in Rome.
"The best part was we got to play a lot of the young guys," Pitino said. "I thought it was a good confidence builder for Isaiah, because he hasn't played with our guys for a while."
On Thursday, Minnesota started with junior Payton Willis for the second straight game, but Williams, Ihnen, senior Michael Hurt and sophomore Jarvis Omersa were new starters.
Ihnen didn't join the team until late July after competing with Germany in the U20 European Championships. He was scoreless in his first game with the Gophers in Italy, but he was hampered with a sore ankle from an injury in practice last week.
The 6-foot-9 forward scored 17 of his 19 points in the second half Thursday on 7-for-8 shooting, including 3-for-4 from three-point range. Ihnen filled up the stat sheet also recording four rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block in 23 minutes.
"What I took from that game was Isaiah," Pitino said. "You can tell he's getting more comfortable. He just got here. He's hardly practiced with us. He doesn't know what I'm talking about half the time. I switched up the starting lineup just to give everybody else a chance."
The 6-5 Williams, who is from Dallas, scored 12 of his 19 points in the second half, also finishing with a team-best eight rebounds. He shot 5-for-6 from the foul line.
Four Gophers were in double figures scoring, including Marcus Carr (12 points on 5-for-7 shooting, six assists and four steals) and Omersa (11 points on 4-for-4 shooting and four rebounds).
Omersa and fellow sophomore big man Daniel Oturu combined for 17 points and six rebounds in the first half to give Minnesota a 52-26 halftime advantage.
Through three quarters, the Gophers had a 43-point lead, but Tuscan Select outscored them 26-23 in the final period. Pitino clearly decided to call off the dogs since Oturu and Kalscheur (two returning starters from last season) only played a couple minutes in the second half.
Alihan Demir and Willis started and combined to score 27 points in Tuesday’s win, but they struggled with 11 points combined on 5-for-14 shooting Thursday.
After missing 19 free throws Tuesday, the Gophers improved from the foul line in their second game going 11-for-18. They also hit 13 three-pointers and dished out 27 assists in the victory vs. Tuscan Select.
Minnesota’s last game is Saturday afternoon against Como Select in Bologna.