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Postgame: Gophers guards dominate in sixth straight victory

COLLEGE PARK, M.D. – Richard Pitino had so many hot hands in the second half in the Gophers’ 89-75 victory Wednesday night, that for the first time he had to sit guys who couldn’t miss.

Pitino decided to leave in Dupree McBrayer, who finished with 14 of his team-high 18 points in the second half. Akeem Springs ended up with 10 of his 16 points in the first half in just 18 minutes.

“More than anything, I wanted to get (Springs) in,” Pitino said. “But Dupree was playing really well. I just went with the hot hand. But Akeem was terrific as well.”

Minnesota’s four guards combined for 64 points on Wednesday night, which included outscoring Maryland’s starters 46-27.

Nate Mason had 10 of his 17 points in the first half, while Amir Coffey scored 11 of his 13 points in the second half.

McBrayer said Springs wasn’t frustrated with limited minutes. He cheered on his teammates and gave McBrayer a little pep talk in the second half.

“Akeem came out on fire,” McBrayer said. “I thought he was going to get 30. Akeem told me as a leader, that’s one of my close friends. He just said, ‘Come in and be confident.’ That’s what I did. He came back in and got (hot), and then I got on fire. That’s kind of like taking turns.”

This was the balanced offensive attack that Pitino envisioned when he thought before the season this would be his most talented team in four years.

The Gophers looked offensively challenged at times during an earlier five-game losing streak, but they showed their potential Wednesday night in the sixth straight win.

“You’re quicker when you’re playing better,” Pitino joked. “I do think if you looked at us now versus then, we’re much more confident. We’re tougher. We were not a very confident group (in Jan. 28 loss) versus Maryland.”

Maryland’s Melo Trimble, who scored 32 and 27 points last week against Northwestern and Wisconsin, was held to just 11 points on 4-for-12 shooting. Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter, who combined for 47 points on 10 three-pointers in 75-68 win at Minnesota, were held to just 15 points combined on 6-for-20 shooting Wednesday.

The Terrapins shot just 7-for-27 from three-point range, including 3-for-15 from their starting guards.

“That’s doing a good job of scouting and simulating what they do in practice,” McBrayer said. “We were doing it as many times as we could, to make sure it was perfect for when game time comes.”

HOMECOMING: Mason, who didn’t move to Georgia until he was 7, grew up in nearby Baltimore. So he said there were 70 members of his family in attendance at the XFINITY Center Wednesday night.

 “It was a great atmosphere here,” Mason said. “All my family was here. So it was good to come back home and play in front of my family. It’s special. It’s very special, because they really don’t get to come out to Minnesota that much.”

The Golden Dunkers booster club also had 12 members make the trip, wearing “Dunker Dozen” T-shirts sitting behind the bench. Pitino was given one of their shirts during an afternoon practice before the game.

Pregame: Gophers frontcourt could have a big night vs. Maryland

Gophers at Maryland

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

INSIDE PRESENCE– The Gophers set the tone in Sunday’s 83-78 overtime victory against Michigan when they threw the ball inside to Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch and let their frontcourt go to work. Murphy and Lynch ended up with a combined 26 points and 23 rebounds against the Wolverines. And that was with Lynch only playing 13 minutes with foul trouble. Eric Curry replaced Lynch to put up his best game in Big Ten play with 12 points and five rebounds off the bench. Minnesota will have the edge inside Wednesday night against Maryland, especially with 7-footer Michal Cekovsky out for the season with a fractured ankle. Murphy's been in beast mode since the last time the Gophers played Maryland. He's averaging 18 points, 15 rebounds and shooting 62 percent in his last four games.

TAMING TRIMBLE– Terrapins guard Melo Trimble was named Big Ten player of the week Monday after scoring a career-high 32 points in a win against Northwestern and 27 points in a loss at Wisconsin. Trimble is clearly having the best season of his career, but he hasn’t exploded offensively in previous meetings with Minnesota. The 6-foot-3 Baltimore native had just 13 points in the Jan. 28 win in Minneapolis (to go with nine assists). Trimble really struggled last season when a top-10 Maryland team was upset at Williams Arena, finishing with just 10 points on 3-for-11 shooting and six turnovers.

FRESHMAN IMPACT– No question the story of the last meeting between these two teams was freshmen Justin Jackson, Kevin Huerter and Anthony Cowan combining for 55 points, including 38 points in the second half in the 85-78 win against the Gophers at the Barn. Minnesota’s players obviously didn’t stick to the scouting report on Jackson and Huerter, who combined for 10 of Maryland’s 11 three-pointers in the game. The Gophers have their own talented freshmen with Curry and Amir Coffey. They could use a breakout game from both Curry and Coffey to help offset the likely impact of the Terrapins three young starters.

GAME INFO

Time: 7:30 p.m. CT, Wednesday. Where: XFINITY Center. Line: Maryland by 5. Series:  Maryland leads 1-4; Maryland won last meeting 85-78 Jan. 28, 2017 in Minneapolis TV: BTN. Online/Live video: BTN2go Radio: 1500ESPN.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA (20-7, 8-6)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 15.0

G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 12.3

G-Akeem Springs 6-4 Sr. 9.9

F-Jordan Murphy 6-6 So. 10.7

C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 Jr. 8.3

Key reserves– Dupree McBrayer, G, 6-5, So., 10.4 ppg; Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 6.0 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 89-72 (5th season)  

Notable: The Gophers are looking for their second victory this season against a ranked Big Ten opponent on the road, which had only happened once in the program’s history in 1996-97. Pitino’s team defeated No. 15 Purdue 91-82 in overtime Jan. 1 in West Lafayette, Ind. Minnesota can also win its fifth Big Ten road game this season, which would tie the program record set in 1981-82. The Gophers won seven conference road games during the 1977-78 season, but those wins were vacated.

MARYLAND (22-5, 10-4)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G-Anthony Cowan 6-0 Fr. 10.4

G- Melo Trimble 6-3 Jr. 17.6

G- Kevin Huerter 6-7 Fr. 8.9

F- Justin Jackson 6-7 Fr. 10.8

C- Damonte Dodd 6-11 Sr. 6.3

Key reserves– Jaylen Brantley, G, 5-11, Jr., 5.1 ppg; L.G. Gill, F, 6-8, Sr., 3.4 ppg; Ivan Bender, F, 6-9, Fr., 4.2 ppg; Dion Wiley, G, 6-4, RS-So., 4.0 ppg; Jared Nickens, G-F, 6-7, Jr., 3.0 ppg.

Coach: Mark Turgeon 386-223 (18th season)  

Notable: The Terrapins have the second most wins in the Big Ten (36-14) since joining the conference in 2014-15. Turgeon has the best winning percentage (.785) in program history through a coach’s first 200 games. He coached in his 200th game with Maryland in Sunday’s loss at Wisconsin.

 Fuller’s prediction (24-3 picks record)Maryland 74, Gophers 68. The Gophers had their chance to upset the Terrapins at home when they were clearly outplaying them in the first half with a 12-point lead. But Maryland’s freshmen trio was too much to handle in the second half (see above). That was Minnesota’s last loss. A players-only meeting got the team to focus on the little things to win close games and the rest is history. But winning five straight games against lower-level Big Ten and bubble teams is one thing. Beating a Big Ten title contender on the road is another. Pitino’s boys did it once before when Nate Mason had 31 points and 11 assists at Purdue. But Mason isn’t likely to duplicate that performance Wednesday night.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Purdue at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    6:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Dallas at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, ESPN, 830-AM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Twins at Boston (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Penn State at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Wisconsin at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Houston

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at Maryland

    11 am on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Minnesota United FC vs. San Antonio

    11:30 am

  • Washington at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Miami at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Los Angeles at Wild

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Tampa Bay at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm

  • Wild at Winnipeg

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Pittsburgh at Twins (spring training)

    12:05 pm on 96.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Utah

    8 pm on FSN, 830-AM

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