MILWAUKEE – Middle Tennessee players Reggie Upshaw and Jacorey Williams were asked what they thought about going against the Big Ten’s top shot blocker when they play Thursday against Gophers center Reggie Lynch.
Their response was that Lynch wouldn’t intimidate them because they had already beaten Vanderbilt with a similar rim protector in 7-footer Luke Kornet earlier in the season.
“The whole time leading into that game, we just heard about how he kind of alters shots and he’s basically going to dominate us in the post,” Upshaw said. “It was a different story when we got out there.”
Lynch, who was told about MTSU’s comments, took offense to being compared to Kornet.
“Luke Kornet is really not like anything close to me,” the 6-foot-10, 260-pound junior from Edina said. “If they want to talk trash, they can. We’re just going to not think about that and try to prepare the same way. But Luke Kornet is a 7-footer who blocks half as many shots as me and is kind of soft. So it’s not speaking too much about how I play. I’m much more physical and a defensive presence than he is.”
He's right. Lynch was the Big Ten's defensive player of the year this season, averaging 3.5 blocks per game. That ranks second in the nation. He has more blocks than MTSU's entire team 111 to 97.
Upshaw, a 6-8 senior forward, didn't exactly talk trash about Lynch. He took a shot at Kornet, who also played Minnesota this season.
The Gophers beat Vanderbilt 56-52 on Dec. 3 in Sioux Falls, S.D. Lynch blocked six shots and held Kornet to 4-for-18 shooting.
Kornet played at Middle Tennessee this year and struggled. Upshaw and Williams combined for 27 points and 16 rebounds in a 71-48 win Dec. 8 at home. Kornet was held to eight points, five rebounds and one block.
To be fair to Kornet, he and Vanderbilt got better in SEC play. The Commodores play Northwestern in the NCAA first round in Salt Lake City. Is it so bad to be compared to Kornet? He was named All-SEC first team and all-defensive team this year.
Lynch and Gophers All-Big Ten forward Jordan Murphy, who averaged 20 points, 15 rebounds and nearly five blocks combined this season, will see if the Blue Raiders big men can back up their talk Thursday.
“All year we’ve faced guys who were bigger than us and considered more physical before the game,” Williams, the Conference USA player of the year, said. “I think me and Reggie (Upshaw) play well off each other and cause mismatch problems.“