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Pregame: Five things to watch in Minnesota-Penn State hoops tonight

  • Blog Post by: Amelia Rayno
  • January 8, 2014 - 3:49 PM

Can Andre Hollins breaking the all-time scoring record at Minnesota? Read my story on his possibility here, from today's Star Tribune.

As far as first Big Ten road games go, you can't do too much better than Penn State.

No, notching their second win of the league schedule in State College won't be EASY for the Gophers, but the Nittany Lions are struggling enough to make Minnesota a favorite in the matchup, and going 2-1 through the first three games would be a big deal considering the meat-grinder that is ahead (Michigan State, Ohio State, Iowa, Wisconsin, yikes).

Five things to watch on Wednesday:

1. The backcourts: While the Nittany Lions have some depth concerns of their own in the backcourt, the guards matchups will be where it's at. Penn State will have plenty to throw at the Gophers' Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu with Tim Frazier, D.J. Newbill and John Johnson. All three of the Nittany Lions starting guards can handle the ball, are capable of breaking out for huge games, so the Gophers will need to keep all of them contained.

2. Killer instinct? Holding a lead is often a problem for transitioning teams like the Gophers. And while Minnesota played extremely well for about 35 minutes against Purdue on Sunday, the Gophers' major lapse in intensity in the final five minutes nearly proved costly. Better teams would have turned the tides, given that opportunity. 

3. DeAndre Mathieu's integration: No one would expect a completely smooth road from JUCO to the Big Ten. The new Gophers point guard wowed early with his quickness and ability to score at the rim despite being just 5-9 (a statistic he's still fighting), but has struggled with fouls and turnovers through the first two games. Can he continue to improve on Wednesday?

4. Elliott Eliason's strong play: In the last two games, the Gophers center has contributed 18 points and 17 rebounds, and blocked eight shots -- including six against Purdue, a game-changing element in that win. In the process, he's relegated Mo Walker to mostly a bench player, rather than a legitimate platoon. Can he keep up the good work?

5. Three-point defense: Minnesota has given up 16 in the last two games, and allowed both opponents to shoot for a very good percentage from behind the arc. The Gophers have the guard power to get out on the perimeter and put hands in faces, and still need to get better at smothering shooters in the 2-3.

© 2014 Star Tribune