GOPHERS MEN'S HOOPS AT MARYLAND
FULLER'S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Foul trouble for Robbins
In the first four wins against ranked opponents for the Gophers this season, Liam Robbins looked the part of a top-five center in the Big Ten. The 7-foot junior averaged 21.3 points, 9.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks to help lead his team to victories against Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Iowa.
One thing those games had in common was Robbins avoiding foul trouble, not having more than three fouls in any of them. The Drake transfer provides a game-changing inside presence when he's on the floor, but the Gophers struggle mightily to replace him when Robbins is on the bench.
That was painfully obviously for Richard Pitino in the first meeting with Maryland in a 63-49 loss Jan. 23 at Williams Arena. Robbins fouled out with a season-low six points and two rebounds in 22 minutes against the Terrapins. Terps big man Donta Scott, who is 6-7, had 15 points and 11 rebounds.
"Liam's our only true post," Richard Pitino said. "When he's out of the game it allows them to dictate the rules a little bit. If you have Liam in, you can hurt them on our end by playing big."
Since his 22-point, eight-rebound performance in the 75-57 win Jan. 16 against Michigan, Robbins has committed at least four fouls in five straight games, fouling out three times.
Robbins has committed at least four fouls in eight Big Ten games this season, which includes fouling out four times. The Gophers were 0-6 in conference play in games when Robbins had four fouls or more, but they've won their last two such contests.
What's been the biggest difference? Well, the emergence of senior forward Brandon Johnson gave the U another post presence. The 6-8 Western Michigan transfer is averaging 12.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists in the last four games.
Robbins played with an injured ankle in the second half vs. Purdue. He'll start tonight vs. Maryland, but the Gophers might need to continue to lean on Johnson inside as well.
"He has a huge impact," Robbins said about Johnson. "You see how much he rebounds the ball. Not just on the defensive end but the offensive end. I bet you he gets us 6-7 extra possessions a game, which in the Big Ten that's huge."
Carr's late-game heroics
It was clear Marcus Carr wanted to make a statement in the final minute of Thursday's 71-68 win against No. 24 Purdue. His eight points in the final minute and change, including two three-pointers against the Boilermakers was his way of redeeming himself.
The junior point guard felt responsible for his mistakes and missed shots down the stretch in Minnesota's last road loss a week ago falling 76-72 at Rutgers. The Gophers came up short after playing their best game away from home this season.
"Coach just gave me another opportunity to have the ball in my hands at the end of the game," Carr said. "He trusted me to make a play and my teammates did as well. Like I said after the Rutgers game, I pride myself on being able to pull my team through in those situations. No matter how I have to make the shot."
Pitino joked that Carr's bank shot three-pointer with 11 seconds left was something the Gophers were working on from that side of the floor. Carr's late-game heroics worked against Purdue, but will it work against a double team tonight?
The Gophers are 0-6 on the road this season, partly due to Carr's struggles away from home (12.8 points per game on 28% shooting from the field).
The Terrapins couldn't stop Carr the first time around giving up 25 points on 8-for-14 shooting, but he had zero assists in 40 minutes. They shut down everyone else, so Carr will also have to get his teammates going in Sunday's rematch.
For the first time this season, junior guard Gabe Kalscheur hit four three-pointers Thursday, finishing with 16 points against Purdue.Kalscheur had just one point on 0-for-6 shooting in the first game vs. the Terrapins.
The Gophers and Northwestern are the worst in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (minus-2.7). They won the battle of the boards for three straight games vs. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. But that wasn't enough to overcome being beaten on the glass by Illinois (minus-18), Iowa twice (minus-17 and minus-6), Michigan twice (minus-9 and minus-4), Maryland (minus-8) and Purdue (minus-17) on the road.
In the last three games, the Gophers have made strides on the glass coming out nearly even. They were barely outrebounded by Rutgers and Purdue (both minus-two), two of the most physical teams in the Big Ten. Minnesota has been hitting the offensive boards hard, grabbing 16 vs. Rutgers and Nebraska and 13 vs. Purdue at home.
Robbins, who had his third double-double this season with 11 points and 10 rebounds vs. Purdue at home, leads the Gophers (7.3) in rebounding this season. But this isn't like years past when Jordan Murphy (twice) and Daniel Oturu (last season) led the Big Ten in rebounding. They were good for 10-12 rebounds every night. Now it has to be more of a team effort.
Starting guards Kalscheur, Carr and Tre' Williams combined for 14 rebounds vs. the Boilermakers on Thursday, including eight from Kalscheur.
The Gophers currently rank No. 1 in the Big Ten overall (17.7) in free throws made per game overall, but that number has dropped to 14.4 free throws made in Big Ten games. This season is still a major upgrade from last year when they ranked 285thnationally with 11.5 foul shots made per game. They're getting to the line nearly twice as often and converting 76 percent, ranked third in the Big Ten in league games. Getting to the line is obviously a strength for Pitino's team. Getting outshot has been detrimental. They were 5-14 when outshot by their opponent on free throws last season. They're 3-6 in the same situation this season, which included a recent three-game losing streak.
Carr, who shoots 78.6% from the foul line, ranks third in the Big Ten with 99 free throws made this season trailing only Iowa's Luka Garza (104) and Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis (109). Carr attacking the basket and getting to the foul line more often is critical to Minnesota's offense.
Time:6 p.m. CT, Sunday.Where:XFINITY Center.Line:Minnesota 3-point underdog.Series:Maryland leads the series 11-2, including a fifth straight win vs. the Gophers, 63-49, at Williams Arena on Jan. 23.TV: FS1.Online/Live video: FoxSports.Radio:100.3 KFAN
MINNESOTA GOPHERS(13-7, 6-7)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr.19.9
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 Jr. 9.4
G – Tre' Williams 6-5 195 So. 3.6
F – Brandon Johnson 6-8 220 Sr. 8.9
C – Liam Robbins 7-0 235 Jr. 13.1
Key reserves– Both Gach, G, 6-6, Jr., 8.2 ppg; Eric Curry, F-C, 6-9, Sr., 3.9 ppg; Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2, Fr., 5.8 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 1.9 ppg.
Coach:Richard Pitino 158-129 (9th season overall)
Notable: Senior forward Brandon Johnson had a season-high 26 points on 8-for-9 shooting from three in the overtime win vs. Iowa on Christmas Day. The Gophers were 17-for-43 from three, setting a team record for attempts from beyond the arc. Johnson's three-point percentage in that game was a team record and he tied the single-game record for threes made. The Chicago native is shooting 33% from three this season, but he hasn't been able to come close to duplicating that one record-setting performance. He shot 2-for-11 on threes in the seven games before Iowa. Johnson's shot 1-for-14 from long distance since Dec. 25. The Gophers shot 27-for-68 (39.7%) from three in back-to-back wins vs. St. Louis and Iowa, but they have shot 29.4% from deep this season, last in the Big Ten and 316th nationally.
MARYLAND TERRAPINS (10-10, 4-9)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Eric Ayala 6-5 200 Jr. 14.3
G – Aaron Wiggins 6-6 200 Jr. 12.5
G – Jarius Hamilton 6-8 235 Jr. 6.4
F – Donta Scott 6-7 230 Jr. 12.4
F – Galin Smith 6-9 235 Sr. 6.4
Key reserves– Darryl Morsell, G, 6-5, Sr., 8.3 ppg; Hakim Hart, G, 6-3, So., 8.2 ppg.
Coach: Mark Turgeon 464-268 (23rd season)
Notable: The Terrapins have three wins vs. ranked opponents on the road this season, including at Minnesota. But they were winless at home until beating Purdue 61-60 last week … Terps point guard Eric Ayala had 21 points and forward Donta Scott added 15 points and 11 rebounds in the win against the Gophers in Minneapolis.
Fuller's score prediction (Picks record 10-6):Gophers 73, Maryland 70.