Santa Clara vs. Gophers men’s basketball
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
TURNOVER TEMPTATION – Gophers fans who made the trip to Vancouver were up on their feet enthusiastic about watching their team take a 14-point lead midway through the first half Sunday night against Texas A&M. Suddenly, the wheels fell off taking care of the ball. Sloppy ball handling, lazy passes and forcing shots led to 16 of the team’s season-high 20 turnovers in the first half. Six of those turnovers came from Amir Coffey who was moved off the point guard spot in the second half. Isaiah Washington took over initiating the offense with Coffey and Dupree McBrayer playing off the ball. That seemed a better game plan against the Aggies length and aggressive on-ball defense. The Gophers have struggled taking care of the ball so far this season with 16.3 turnovers per game, tied for worst in the Big Ten with Rutgers and Iowa and 294th in the country. Santa Clara is even worse with 16.7 turnovers per game and 305th in the country as of Tuesday. Minnesota’s assists numbers, though, are one of the best in the country (13th) with 19.7 per game.
TALENT GAP – It didn’t take long for Santa Clara to show how overcmatched it was in the opening game of the Vancouver Showcase against Washington on Sunday. Huskies’ leading scorer Jaylon Norwell scored 20 of his season-high 32 points in the first half. The Broncos scrapped and clawed but they couldn’t compete with the Pac-12 title contender’s athleticism, talent and depth. The Gophers finished 15-17 last season, but they have the talent this season to be an upper echelon Big Ten team. Five players on the roster were four-star recruits in high school, compared to none for the Broncos. Senior Jordan Murphy is also a two-time All-Big Ten forward and preseason watch list member for the Karl Malone Award, Naismith Award and Wooden Award. Santa Clara’s top returning player, senior guard KJ Feagin, is expected to be sidelined for his second straight game with a broken thumb.
OLD GOPHER – The Gophers no longer have any members on their roster from Richard Pitino’s first full recruiting class from 2014. But there is a player from that Pitino’s debut class with Tuesday’s opponent. Santa Clara redshirt senior forward Josh Martin joined Nate Mason, Bakary Konate, Gaston Diedhiou and Carlos Morris as newcomers going into Pitino’s second year at Minnesota in the 2014-15 season. Martin, a highlight-reel dunker from Seattle, actually bonded with Mason in an all-star game before the season in Washington. He didn’t adjust well to playing for the Gophers, though, transferring after averaging 1.3 points in five minutes after seven games. After three seasons battling injuries and inconsistent playing time at Cal Poly, Martin ended up at Santa Clara as a graduate transfer this season. He’s averaging 4.7 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds in three games as a starting power forward this year.
Time: 8 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Where: Vancouver Convention Centre. Line: plus-17. Series: Minnesota leads series 3-0, including last meeting 68-50 win at Williams Arena on Dec. 22, 2007. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTNPlus Radio: 100.3 FM.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (3-0)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 14.7
G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 12.7
G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 11.7
F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 12.3
C- Daniel Oturu 6-10 Fr. 10.7
Key reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 4.0 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 2.7 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 7.0 ppg; Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 6.3 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, Fr., 4.0 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 93-78 (6th season)
Notable: Redshirt sophomore forward/center Eric Curry, who missed last season with torn ligaments and meniscus in his left knee, was out for four-to-six weeks after knee surgery before the season. Curry averaged 5.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in 19.9 minutes per game on the U’s NCAA tournament team in 2017. The 6-foot-9 Memphis native started 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. Curry is expected to miss at least three more games of the 2018-19 season.
SANTA CLARA BRONCOS (0-3)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Tahj Eaddy 6-1 RS-So. 12.7
G-Trey Wertz 6-5 Fr. 5.3
F-Josip Vrankic 6-8 So. 9.3
F-Josh Martin 6-9 Sr. 4.7
C-Fallou Ndoye 6-11 RS-Sr. 1.0
Key reserves– Keshawn Justice, F, 6-4, Fr., 13.7 ppg; Guglielmo Caruso, F, 6-9, Fr., 6.0 ppg; Zeke Richards, C, 6-11, Fr., 4.3 ppg;
Coach: Herb Sendek 441-334 (24th season)
Notable: Former Louisville coach Rick Pitino is in Vancouver to watch his son and the Gophers, but he also has a chance to catch up with his old assistant Sendek, who worked under the elder Pitino at Kentucky in the early 1990s. Sendek was on Pitino’s staff in Lexington from 1989-1993 before getting his first head-coaching job at Miami (Ohio) … Keshawn Justice, a Madison, Wis. native, leads Santa Clara in scoring with 13.7 points per game this season off the bench. The Madison East High product also had scholarship offers from Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Drake last year.
Fuller’s prediction: Gophers 85, Santa Clara 68. The Gophers were on their way to blowing out Texas A&M before really having to make plays defensively and hit critical free throws down the stretch to escape with a 69-64 win Sunday night to open the Vancouver Showcase. The ugliest game for Pitino’s team since last season could be a turning point if the Gophers can learn to take care of the ball and hold onto leads late. We still haven’t seen the best of Murphy this season, but Tuesday night could be a chance for him to show why he was arguably one of the top 25 players in the country entering this season.