The Gophers have notched some big wins in the last couple weeks. But tonight’s game could be the biggest test yet. The Gophers haven’t won at Michigan State since 1990 (not counting the redacted records from 1994-99 due to the academic fraud scandal) and, of course, the Spartans haven’t lost at the Breslin Center all season.
Is the Gophers recent success for real? That question could be answered in how Minnesota keeps up with the Spartans tonight.
Four things the Gophers need to do tonight:
1. Get a hold on Draymond Green. Rodney Williams did a good job of limiting Northwestern’s John Shurna– at least for the first half – over the weekend. Green, who can and will explode if you let him, will be twice the matchup.
2. Keep up with Keith Appling. The Gophers’ new flex offense has made them look quicker and more athletic. They’ll need every ounce of those qualities they can drum up against Appling, who might be the quickest guard in the league.
3. Get a similar performance from Ralph Sampson III. On Sunday, the senior came out with plenty of intensity and finished with 10 points and six rebounds. They’ll need that performance from him, as well as another night of balanced offense to have a chance.
4. Roll on. The Gophers have some momentum now and they know they can play well on the road. They’ve shown they can be a good team, and they had that magic in Bloomington, in a similarly big game. Now they’ve got to keep it going.
“This is going to be a man’s game,” Sampson said. “It’s going to take us being physical. You’ve got to match them and then not only that, but take it a step above where we are going to try to attempt to jump on them as well.”
• Watch tonight’s game on Big Ten Network. • Listen to tonight’s game live on 1500ESPN or here. • Read my preview here. • Check out the matchup here.
Marcus Fuller joined the Star Tribune in 2016 after 11 years covering Gophers sports – and just about every other team and league in town -- for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Before making the Twin Cities his home, Marcus spent two years in The Kansas City Star sports department. Marcus grew up in Hawaii and is a 2002 graduate of San Jose State. Follow Fuller on Twitter @Marcus_R_Fuller.
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