Iowa at Gophers men’s basketball
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Center loss – Redshirt sophomore Eric Curry started at center for the Gophers in last week’s 59-52 loss at Michigan. It was Curry’s first start since his freshman season in 2017. Curry, who finished with five points, nine rebounds, three assists and two blocks in 20 minutes, replaced freshman Daniel Oturu in the starting lineup. That turned out to be a game ahead of when Curry would be forced to start anyway with Oturu being ruled out Sunday with a shoulder injury he suffered in practice. What does that mean for Oturu moving forward? The 6-foot-10 Cretin-Derham Hall product was an energizer for the Gophers, averaging 10.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and a team-best 1.7 blocks in 19 games, including 18 starts this season. It isn’t the same shoulder he had surgery on and missed several months to rehab in the offseason. Timetable for his recovery this time will likely be day-to-day. After missing the first 12 games and all last season recovering from knee surgeries, the 6-9 Curry is gaining confidence, getting in better shape and feeling more comfortable each week in extended minutes. Curry and Jordan Murphy will likely still need help from 7-foot Matz Stockman and Michael Hurt in the frontcourt against Iowa’s Tyler Cook, Luke Garza and a deep Hawkeyes bench. Cook and Garza combine to average nearly 31 points and 13 rebounds a game.
Free throw contest – Iowa and Minnesota are two of the best teams in college hoops at getting to the free throw line. They rank 1-2 in the Big Ten and 3-4 nationally with 26.5 and 26.3 foul shots made per game, respectively. Biggest difference is the Hawkeyes are much more accurate at the charity stripe (76 to 67.3 percent). Murphy, who leads the Big Ten overall with 12.1 rebounds per game, also is tops in free throw attempts per game (8.0) in the league. In fact, the 6-7, 250-pound senior forward gets to the foul line the second most per game than all other high-major players except for one. That would be Tennessee All-American and returning SEC player of the year Grant Williams, who shot 23-for-23 from the foul line to score 43 points in a win last week at Vanderbilt.
Foul trouble – Getting fouled frequently shows just how aggressive the Gophers can be at times attacking the basket. It’s also a sign of too much aggression when the fouls are called against them. Murphy, Oturu and starting guards Dupree McBrayer and Gabe Kalscheur have all been in foul trouble at times in the last few games, especially in the first half recently. Part of it is getting called for touch fouls, but they also need to be disciplined and know when to stop reaching defensively. Oturu and Murphy both were forced to sit the bench for stretches with foul trouble in the loss at Michigan (Oturu played a season-low 10 minutes). Murphy’s had four fouls in three straight games, which included in his 19-point, 21-rebound performance in the last home game in a Jan. 19 win against Penn State. Kalscheur hit the game-tying three-pointer to make it 57-57 before Charles Matthews’ game-winning shot for the Wolverines in Ann Arbor. The all-around 6-4 freshman was able to avoid foul trouble after a couple games struggling to stay on the court.
Time: 4:05 p.m. CT, Sunday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Gophers and Iowa are even. Series: Minnesota leads the series 100-88, including Gophers winning last meeting 86-82 at the Barn on Feb. 21, 2018. TV: FS1. Online/Live video: FoxSports Radio: 100.3 FM.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (14-5, 4-4 in Big Ten)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 15.4
G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 10.6
G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 9.7
F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 14.6
C- Eric Curry 6-9 So. 5.0
Key reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 4.8 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 2.1 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 1.9 ppg; Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 2.9 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 122-97 (7th season)
Notable: Curry, who missed last season with torn ligaments and meniscus in his left knee, was out for the first 12 games this season after knee surgery before the season. Curry made his season debut with four points and six rebounds in 17 minutes Dec. 30 against Mount St. Mary’s off the bench. He averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game on the U’s NCAA tournament team in 2017. Curry started at center in the Oct. 20 scrimmage at Creighton, but he was sidelined again after an MRI revealed cartilage damage with his previously injured left knee swelling.
IOWA HAWKEYES (16-4, 5-4)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Jordan Bohannon 6-1 Jr. 10.8
G-Joe Wieskamp 6-6 Fr. 11.6
F-Isaiah Moss 6-5 Sr. 9.6
F-Tyler Cook 6-8 Jr. 16.6
F-Luke Garza 6-11 So. 14.2
Key reserves–Ryan Kriener, F, 6-9, Jr., 5.4 ppg; Nicholas Baer, F, 6-7, Jr., 6.7 ppg; Connor McCaffery, G, 6-5, Fr., 5.3 ppg.
Coach: Fran McCaffery 418-301 (23rd season)
Notable: Garza, a 6-11 sophomore, has scored 20 points or more in three straight games this season, including 22 points at Penn State. Who should the Gophers watch out for the most today? Maybe Moss, who is averaging 22.3 points in three career games against Minnesota, including 32 points last season.
Fuller’s prediction (my prediction record 13-6): Gophers 75, Iowa 72. The Gophers are without their top shot blocker and arguably best low-post scoring presence with Oturu sidelined Sunday. That means Richard Pitino likely relies more on Coffey and McBrayer to make plays on the perimeter and take pressure off the inside game with Murphy. Iowa’s size and length will make it tough for undersized big men like Murphy and Curry to score, but Minnesota’s defense can force turnovers and speed up the game to get into transition.