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Gophers look to be the bully inside against Vanderbilt in Sioux Falls

Gophers vs. Vanderbilt in Sioux Falls

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

FRONTCOURT TOUGHNESS – The Gophers were physically dominated in their first loss of the season Monday at Florida State. It wasn’t just that center Reggie Lynch, the team's biggest player, was outweighed by 40 pounds in the paint. Minnesota lacked toughness across the board in the frontcourt, including Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry. That can’t happen Saturday night against a Vanderbilt team more comfortable playing a finesse game. Lynch (260 pounds), Murphy (240) and Curry (235) aren’t used to being pushed around like they were Monday. Time for them to do some bullying of their own.

DEFENDING THE ARC – The Commodores enter Saturday’s game with 25 three-pointers made in their last two games, which helped them bounce back from a 10-point loss to Butler on Nov. 24. They are shooting 41 percent from three-point range with 66 three-point field goals this year, both leading the Southeastern Conference. Minnesota ranks second in the Big Ten in three-point shooting defense with opponents being held to 28.2 percent. St. John’s (11) and Texas-Arlington (10) are the only two opponents to make double-digit three-pointers against Minnesota this season.

MURPHY’S MOTOR – Can Jordan Murphy get back on track? The sophomore captain has scored just 14 points on 4-for-16 shooting from the field in his last two games, including being held without a field goal on Monday for the first time since his third college game last year. Murphy is an undersized power forward at 6-foot-7. But he has enough athleticism, strength and length to be a dominant rebounder and finisher. Murphy has tried to play more away from the basket this season. But he can prove to be one of the top forwards in the Big Ten again, if he sticks to what he does best.

GAME INFO

Time: 7 p.m. CT, Saturday. Where: Sanford Pentagon. Line: Gophers by 3 points Series: Leads 4-0; Minnesota won last meeting, 72-59, in 1959 at Memorial Gym in Nashville. TV: None. Online/Live video: ESPN3. Radio: 1500-AM.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA (6-1)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 12.7

G-Dupree McBrayer 6-5 So. 11.4

G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 14.6

F-Jordan Murphy 6-7 So. 10.1

C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 Jr. 8.8

Key reserves – Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 7.7 ppg; Akeem Springs, G, 6-4, Sr., 7.3 ppg; Ahmad Gilbert, F, 6-6, So., 3.0 ppg; Bakary Konate, C, 6-11, Jr., 2.6 ppg

Coach: Richard Pitino 58-51 (4 seasons)  

Notable: The Gophers are playing at the Sanford Pentagon for the second straight season. They lost to Oklahoma State 62-60 last year. It was the end of a three-game losing streak that had South Dakota connections. Minnesota lost to South Dakota and South Dakota State at home before falling to the Cowboys in Sioux Falls, S.D. last year. A good sign this season: Pitino didn’t schedule any games against the Coyotes or the Jackrabbits.

Vanderbilt (4-3)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G-Riley LaChance 6-2 Jr. 10.3

G-Payton Willis 6-4 Fr. 6.9

F-Matthew Fisher-Davis 6-5 Jr. 15.3

F-Jeff Roberson 6-6 Jr. 10.6

C-Luke Kornet 7-1 Sr. 14.6

Key reserves – Nolan Cressler, G, 6-4, Sr., 5.6 ppg; Joe Toye, G/F, 6-7, So., 4.4 ppg; Djery Baptiste, C, 6-10, R-Fr., 4.0 ppg; Clevon Brown, F, 6-8, Fr., 2.4 ppg

Coach: Bryce Drew 128-52 (six seasons)  

Notable: Junior guard Riley LaChance, a Brookfield, Wis. native, is shooting 18-for-26 from beyond the arc this season (69.2 percent), which leads the SEC. LaChance received a scholarship offer from Pitino at Brookfield Central High School. He scheduled an official visit to Minnesota’s campus in 2013. The former four-star recruit also made visits to Iowa and Michigan State.

Fuller’s prediction (7-0 record)Gophers 76, Vanderbilt 72. The Gophers suffered their first loss of the season, but it could’ve been a lot worse. They faced a 19-point deficit in the second half in Tallahassee before cutting it to a single-digit margin late in the game. That should help Minnesota’s players bring some confidence into Saturday’s matchup against another major conference foe. Freshman Amir Coffey will learn how to stay out of foul trouble after it took him out of his last game. Murphy breaks out of a brief slump to get the Gophers back on the winning track. 

Postgame: Gophers' frontcourt production lacking in first loss of the season

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jordan Murphy took one look at 7-foot-1, 300-pound Michael Ojo and he passed up the chance to drive to the rim for a dunk. 

Reggie Lynch backed down his defender and tried to muscle in for a layup, but 6-11 Jonathan Isaac sent his shot right back at him. Lynch tried again and again, even trying to slam on 7-4 Christ Koumadje at one point -- but couldn't finish it.

The Gophers’ upgraded frontcourt was a major factor during a 6-0 start this year. But it had no answer for Florida State’s massive frontline in a 75-67 loss Monday night at Tucker Center.

“They’re big,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “They’re really, really big. What they do is, because they deny you so much, they force you to make plays at the rim. Where we made mistakes was we did it on the first drive. We need to drive and kick, then do it on the first and second paint touch. But they’re length definitely bothered our bigs.”

Minnesota was outscored 40-18 in points in the paint Monday.

Murphy scored just five points on 0-for-6 shooting from the field in 24 minutes. It was only the second time in his career he finished without a field goal and the first since the third game of his freshman season last year.

Coming off an ankle injury, Lynch wasn’t as aggressive as he had been in previous games until the second half. He was scoreless until making two free throws with 3:41 left in the game. He had six straight points, including a dunk during a 15-3 run. The Gophers cut a 19-point deficit to six with under 30 seconds left, but the comeback was too late.

Freshman Eric Curry led the Gophers with eight rebounds, but he mostly avoided shooting near the basket. He had just five points on 1-for-3 shooting in 25 minutes.

The most effective post player in the game was Bakary Konate, who had seven points and six rebounds in just 14 minutes. He shot 5-for-7 from the foul line.

Murphy, Lynch and Curry had two fouls in the first half, so Pitino went to his bench.

“Every day I work hard just ready for my opportunity,” Konate said. “Today was one of them. I knew I could give it my all for the team. I tried my best, but we couldn’t get the win.”

Florida State is the second tallest team in the nation in average height (79.3 inches), according to kenpom.com. But it definitely has the largest frontcourt.

The Big Ten’s tallest player is Purdue’s 7-2 Isaac Haas. But you don’t see many teams with multiple players 7-feet or taller.

Lynch and company will face another 7-footer on Saturday when Vanderbilt and Luke Kornet play the Gophers in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Free throw problems: The Gophers shot just 22-for-36 from the foul line Monday against the Seminoles, including 7-for-16 in the second half. Minnesota’s worst free throw shooter Murphy (48 percent) actually wasn’t the problem. He finished 5-for-6 on free throws. Surprisingly, guard Nate Mason was just 2-for-6 after entering the game shooting 84 percent.

In the last two games, the Gophers are 34-for-58 (58.6 percent) from the line. That’s not a good sign. Pitino already has his guys working on it extra each day. Maybe putting too much emphasis on it is backfiring mentally.

Coffey’s streak ends: Freshman Amir Coffey’s double figure scoring streak to start his career ended at six games after he was held to  just seven points on 3-for-10 shooting. He played a season-low 18 minutes after getting into foul trouble.

   

TV Listings

Local Schedule

< >
  • Detroit at Gophers women's basketball

    2 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    3:30 pm

  • Timberwolves at Charlotte

    6 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers men's basketball vs. Vanderbilt at Sioux Falls, S.D.

    7 pm on 1500-AM

  • Ohio State at Gophers men's hockey

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Wisconsin

    2 pm

  • Wild at Edmonton

    8:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • NJIT at Gophers men's basketball

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • San Antonio at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, NBATV, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's basketball at New Mexico

    8 pm on 88.5-FM

  • Wild at Toronto

    6:30 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Timberwolves at Toronto

    6 pm on TNT, 830-AM

  • Army at Gophers women's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    5:30 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    6 pm

  • Edmonton at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Detroit at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN PLUS, 830-AM

  • Georgia Southern at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at Boston U.

    2 pm

  • Gophers men's hockey at Michigan State

    7 pm on BTN, 1500-AM

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Today's Scoreboard

No MLB games today

No NFL games today

  • Brooklyn

    Milwaukee

     

    - F

    103

    112

  • Minnesota

    Charlotte

     

    - 4th, 10:48

    77

    84

  • Boston

    Philadelphia

     

    - 3rd, 10:39

    51

    56

  • Atlanta

    Toronto

     

    - 3rd, 8:58

    53

    68

  • LA Lakers

    Memphis

     

    - 2nd, 7:13

    40

    35

  • Chicago

    Dallas

     

    - 1st, 3:53

    6

    19

  • Denver

    Utah

    8:00 PM

    NBA

  • Miami

    Portland

    9:00 PM

  • Phoenix

    Golden State

    9:30 PM

  • Boston

    Buffalo

     

    - F

    2

    1

  • Carolina

    NY Rangers

     

    - F

    2

    4

  • Chicago

    Philadelphia

     

    - F

    1

    3

  • New Jersey

    Nashville

     

    - F

    5

    4

  • Toronto

    Vancouver

     

    - End 2nd

    1

    2

  • Winnipeg

    St. Louis

     

    - End 2nd

    2

    2

  • Florida

    Ottawa

     

    - End 2nd

    0

    2

  • Detroit

    Pittsburgh

     

    - End 2nd

    3

    1

  • Washington

    Tampa Bay

     

    - End 2nd

    0

    1

  • Columbus

    Arizona

     

    - End 1st

    1

    0

  • Dallas

    Colorado

    8:00 PM

  • Anaheim

    Edmonton

    9:00 PM

No MLS games today