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Penn State at Gophers
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
SOPHOMORE POWER– Want to know how the Gophers pulled away for a huge road win at No. 24 Maryland on Wednesday. Look no further than sophomores Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy, who combined to score 33 points in the second half. They had 12 points during a 14-2 run that made Minnesota pull away from a one-point game to a 13-point lead late in the game. Murphy really came alive with 15 points and seven rebounds in the second half alone. Murphy is averaging 17.4 points, 12.6 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and shooting 60.7 percent from the field in the last five games. McBrayer had six straight games under double figures before combining for 33 points in his last two games.
SWITCHING DEFENSE– What probably hasn’t been talked about enough is Richard Pitino’s in-game adjustments during Minnesota’s six-game win streak. Most recently, Maryland was picking apart the Gophers’ defense with ball screen and roll plays in the first half Wednesday. But Pitino decided to do more switching on the screens, mixed and matched different players on shooters and even went back-and-forth from man to zone defensively in the second half. That disrupted the Terrapins offensive rhythm, while eventually the Gophers got scorching hot to run away with the win.
REBOUNDING– One of the biggest issues during the five-game losing streak was rebounding. They were outrebounded three times during that stretch, including in the Jan. 14 loss at Penn State. The Nittany Lions grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and scored 17 second-chance points in the 52-50 win against Minnesota in State College. The Gophers can’t afford to allow Penn State to win the rebounding battle Saturday. As well as they played at Maryland, the Gophers still gave up 16 offensive rebounds and 18 second-chance points against the Terrapins. That will get you beat if you’re not lights out shooting the ball like Minnesota was in the second half (scoring 55 points and shooting 54 percent).
Time: 2 p.m. CT, Saturday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Gophers by 8.5. Series: Minnesota leads 24-10; Penn State won last meeting 52-50 Jan. 14, 2017 in State College. TV: BTN. Online/Live video: BTN2go Radio: 1500ESPN.
MINNESOTA (21-7, 9-6)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 15.1
G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 12.3
G-Akeem Springs 6-4 Sr. 10.1
F-Jordan Murphy 6-6 So. 10.8
C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 Jr. 8.1
Key reserves– Dupree McBrayer, G, 6-5, So., 10.7 ppg; Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 5.9 ppg; Bakary Konate, C, 6-11, Jr., 1.8 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Fr., 0.9 ppg; Ahmad Gilbert, F, 6-6, So., 1.8 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 90-72 (5th season)
Notable: The last time the Gophers defeated Penn State was 63-56 on March 13 in the 2014 Big Ten tournament in Pitino’s first season. Minnesota and Penn State actually played in back-to-back games. The Gophers ended the regular season that year with an 81-63 victory against the Nittany Lions at the Barn. They had a five-game win streak against Penn State from 2012-14. But now it turned into a four-game losing streak in the series since 2015.
PENN STATE (14-14, 6-9)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Tony Carr 6-3 Fr. 12.9
G-Shep Garner 6-2 Jr. 12.0
G-Josh Reaves 6-4 So.
F-Lamar Stevens 6-7 Fr. 12.5
C-Mike Watkins 6-8 Fr. 9.5
Key reserves–Payton Banks, F, 6-6, Jr., 11.0 ppg; Terrence Samuel, G, 6-3, Jr., 4.1 ppg; Julian Moore, C, 6-10, Jr., 3.0 ppg; Isaiah Washington, G, 6-2, So., 0.3 ppg; Deividas Zemgulis, F, 6-6, So., 0.9 ppg.
Coach: Patrick Chambers 128-133 (6th season)
Notable: Freshman guard Tony Carr needs only three assists to break the Penn State freshman record for assists, which is held by Ben Luber with 114 in 2003-04. Carr averages 4.0 assists per game, which included 14 assists at Indiana on Feb. 1, the second most in the program since 1973. Carr, one of four Philadelphia natives on the team, is averaging 18.2 points and 5.5 assists in his last six games. Fellow freshman and former Roman Catholic High School teammate Lamar Stevens is averaging 18.2 points in his last six games.
Fuller’s prediction (24-4 picks record): Gophers 80, Penn State 68. The Gophers don’t need to be motivated by revenge going into Saturday’s game against the Nittany Lions. Sure, it would be nice to beat Penn State just because it stole a game from Minnesota in State College. But Minnesota has a lot to play for right now. It's all about seeding in the NCAA tournament and Big Ten tournament. That's motivation enough.