Texas-Arlington at Gophers
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Outside shooting – Just go ahead and rip up your scouting report on the Gophers from last season, especially when it comes to outside shooting. They ranked last in the Big Ten in three-point shooting (30 percent) in 2015-16, the program’s worst season from long distance since 1990-91. But this isn’t the same group with the addition of Amir Coffey, Akeem Springs and Michael Hurt. Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer also return more confident in their jump shot. The result was Minnesota shooting 10 for 25 from beyond the arc in the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette. Four players hit multiple threes for the Gophers, who didn’t accomplish that all last season. It’s too early to call Minnesota a great or even good shooting team, but there are signs of improvement.
Foul trouble – Minnesota managed to avoid falling behind with Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch in foul trouble in the opener. Murphy was held to just six points and four rebounds in 18 minutes. Lynch nearly had a double-double with 10 points and eight rebounds, but he did most of the damage early in his 19 minutes. Imagine what Pitino’s frontcourt tandem could do on the floor for most of the game. Murphy, Lynch and Amir Coffey all had four fouls against UL-Lafayette. The Gophers can’t afford for this talented threesome to be sitting on the bench in the first half against a dangerous team like Texas-Arlington.
Turnovers – Pitino dismissed the 19 turnovers as his team being out of sorts when he rested a few of his starters in the second half after taking a 27-point lead on Friday. But the Gophers committed 10 turnovers in the first half, including six combined from Mason and Coffey. You would expect Mason and Coffey to have a couple miscues because of how often they look to pass. But they can’t be careless with the ball. Coffey is only a freshman, but he has to adjust to the speed of the college game quickly and make better decisions under pressure.
Time: 7 p.m. CT, Monday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Gophers by 3 points Series: Gophers led 1-0; won last meeting, 90-62, at home in 1999. TV: None. Online/Live video: BTN Plus, BTN2go app. Radio: 1500-AM.
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 15.0
G-Dupree McBrayer 6-5 So. 15.0
G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 13.0
F-Jordan Murphy 6-7 So. 6.0
C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 R-Jr. 10.0
Key reserves – Akeem Springs, G, 6-4, Sr., 11.0 ppg; Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 9 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Fr., 2.0 ppg; Bakary Konate, C, 6-11, Jr., 2.0 ppg
Coach: Richard Pitino 52-51 (4 seasons)
Notable: The Gophers play three games in five days, starting with Monday’s matchup. They play Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday and St. John’s on Friday in the Gavitt Tipoff Games. The last time Minnesota played three games in five days in a non-tournament was in 2005. The last meeting with Texas-Arlington was the Gophers first game under Dan Monson in 1999-2000.
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Erick Neal 5-10 Jr. 10.0
G-Jalen Jones 6-2 Sr. 23.0
G-Drew Charles 6-2 Sr. 3.0
F-Jorge Bilbao 6-9 Sr. 5.0
F-Faith Pope 6-8 Sr. 9.0
Key reserves – Kevin Hervey, F, 6-9, Jr., 16.0; Kaelon Wilson, G, 6-2, Jr., 19.0; Nathan Hawkins, G, 6-5, Jr.; 4.0
Coach: Scott Cross 177-139 (11 seasons)
Notable: Cross is the second-longest tenured Division I men’s basketball coach in Texas. He was an assistant under coach Eddie McCarter when UT-Arlington last played the Gophers in 1999. Cross was on McCarter’s staff from 1998-2006.
Fuller’s prediction (1-0 record): Gophers 80, Texas-Arlington 77. The Gophers haven’t lost a game to a Sun Belt Conference opponent since 2006 (Arkansas Little-Rock 67-66). This will be the first true test for Pitino’s team. The Mavericks will lead in the first half, but it won’t last for long. Sun Belt Preseason Player of the Year Kevin Hervey will show why he’s an NBA prospect. But Monday’s game should be decided by guards. Minnesota’s captain and point guard Mason picks up where he left off with a 15-point, seven-assist game in the season-opening victory. He'll make clutch plays on both ends of the court down the stretch Monday night to help the Gophers start the season 2-0.