The Gophers have one game left before a long, 11-day break during which they’ll be taking final exams.
But they’ll need to stay focused for one more night.
North Dakota State doesn’t have the same level of talent that the Gophers do, but the Bison shouldn’t be a complete pushover either. NDSU has jumped out to an 8-2 start with one of their losses coming from No. 1 Indiana. The Bison are shooting well and scoring in flurries, posting a 40.2 shooting percentage from three-point range. The Gophers have the size advantage, but NDSU blocks a lot of shots – 28th most in the country – and hold their own on the boards, so far out-rebounding their opponents 37-to-31.8 a game.
The biggest key for No. 13 Minnesota tonight will be to limit the efforts of Taylor Braun, who is leading the team in points (15.9 a game), steals (total of 17), assists (35) and rebounds (6.3 a game).
Last year, the 6-7 guard was a major factor in the Bison scaring the Gophers, who handed their lead away late but were able to overcome down the stretch to win 63-59. Braun had 13 points and 11 rebounds in that game.
More notes on tonight’s game:
- A Gophers win tonight would give them their longest winning streak (seven games) since the 2009-10 season.
- The Gophers haven’t lost to a team from the Summit conference (as it is constructed now) since 1936. That team was North Dakota State. Overall, Minnesota is 61-1 against Summit teams.
- Coach Tubby Smith likely won’t make an announcement until after the game, but if freshman Wally Ellenson doesn’t play, it’s likely he will redshirt. Smith said yesterday that he planned to sit down with Ellenson and his family and make a decision before tonight’s game.
- Mo Walker did not play at all in Saturday’s win at USC. Smith said afterwards it was just a matchup concern.
- Rodney Williams lauded the Gophers new strength coach Steve Felde in motivating what is a visibly stronger Minnesota team this season. “I think for me and everybody else, our numbers got higher in everything, really. You come into the summer with a certain number and everybody at the end … everybody’s numbers were higher. That was Feldy’s goal. Everyday he would come in and tell us he wants us to look good for the camera.
*Tonight’s game is on BTN!! Yay!
*Listen to tonight’s game live on 1500-a.m.
*In today’s Star Tribune: Maverick Ahanmisi – free from the transfer rumors – is becoming reliable in reserve.
*On the blog today: aMAILia bag – what does Smith want in an offense? Where do sasquatches reside? It’s all here.
*Notes from yesterday’s access: Gophers to make a decision on redshirting Ellenson before the game tonight.
*Cancel all your lunch plans tomorrow and come hang out with me in my live chat at noon.