GOPHERS MEN'S HOOPS VS. PURDUE
FULLER'S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Much like the Gophers coach Richard Pitino, standout junior guard Marcus Carr gets much of the credit when his team wins and much of the blame when his team loses.
In the case of the 76-71 loss last week at Rutgers, Carr took responsibility for two errant jump shots in the final minute that hurt Minnesota's chances of pulling out its first road win.
"I take pride in being able to make plays down the stretch," Carr said. "The last couple of plays, I missed both those shots. I really kind of want to be that guy who can close it out for our team in those situations. I definitely took that one on the chin. I told the guys that lost was on me. You guys put us in position to win. And I just didn't close it out."
Carr responded by leading the Gophers to Monday's 79-61 win against Nebraska home to end a three-game losing streak. Clearly, he took the stinging defeat at Rutgers to heart. But Carr's season-low six points on 2-for-13 shooting in the 81-62 loss Jan. 30 at Purdue was costly as well.
What does Carr think about the Gophers' last performance against the Boilermakers?
"Playing Purdue again we definitely have some unfinished business," Carr said after the Nebraska win. "I'm excited for Thursday."
Williams vs. Robbins II
Earlier in the season, the Big Ten Network's graphic that showed the top five big men in the Big Ten had one notable absence. Purdue's Trevion Williams was not included.
Williams surely belonged in the conversation, but the Boilermakers were flying under the radar. Meanwhile, the Gophers were generating more buzz, especially with Liam Robbins having some big-time performances against Ohio State and Michigan.
But Williams got the better of Robbins in the first meeting this season with 17 points and 14 rebounds in Purdue's blowout victory in West Lafayette, Ind. Robbins played well with 15 points, seven rebounds and a season-high six blocks.
But the 7-foot junior was disappointed in missing 10 shots (6-for-16) and not doing enough to keep the Boilermakers off the offensive boards (Williams had six himself).
Thursday's rematch should be an entertaining one. The last time Robbins played another elite big man in the Big Ten for a second time he dominated the matchup. Robbins had 22 points vs. Hunter Dickinson in the U's win over the Wolverines on Jan. 16.
Foul trouble could be a factor with Robbins coming off a Nebraska game where he fouled out with just seven points in 14 minutes.
The Gophers are 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 two games, the Gophers have made strides on the glass against Rutgers (minus-two) and Nebraska (plus-two). They gave up 17 offensive rebounds vs. the Boilermakers in their last meeting. But they grabbed 16 offensive rebounds both vs. Rutgers and Nebraska.
Robbins, who had his second double-double this season with 16 points and 10 rebounds at Rutgers, leads the Gophers (7.2) 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.
The Gophers currently rank No. 1 in the Big Ten overall (18.1) in free throws made per game overall, but that number has dropped to 14.8 free throws made in Big Ten games. This season is still a major upgrade from last year when they ranked 285th nationally 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 2-6 in the same situation this season, which included in their last three losses.
Carr, who shoots 78% from the foul line, ranks third in the Big Ten with 97 free throws made this season trailing only Iowa's Luka Garza (106) and Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis (102).
In his last two home games, Carr scored 25 points and 21 points vs. Maryland and Nebraska, respectively. He struggled from the line going 6-for-12 vs. the Terrapins, but he went 6-for-6 on Monday vs. the Huskers. Carr attacking the basket and getting to the foul line more often is critical to Minnesota's offense.
Time: 4 p.m. CT, Thursday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota 3-point favorite. Series: Purdue leads the series 97-80, including 81-62 at Mackey Arena on Jan. 30. TV: ESPN2. Online/Live video: WatchESPN Radio: 100.3 KFAN.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (12-7, 5-7)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr. 19.9
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 Jr. 9.0
G – Tre' Williams 6-5 195 So. 3.7
F – Brandon Johnson 6-8 220 Sr. 8.6
C – Liam Robbins 7-0 235 Jr. 13.2
Key reserves– Both Gach, G, 6-6, Jr., 8.6 ppg; Eric Curry, F-C, 6-9, Sr., 3.9 ppg; Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2, Fr., 5.7 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 2.0 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 157-129 (9th season overall)
Notable: Western Michigan grad transfer 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 310th nationally.
NO. 24 PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (13-7, 8-5)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Eric Hunter Jr. 6-4 170 Jr. 10.3
G – Jaden Ivey 6-4 200 Fr. 7.6
G – Brandon Newman 6-5 195 R-Fr. 8.9
F – Mason Gillis 6-6 240 R-Fr. 4.9
F – Trevion Williams 6-10 265 Jr. 15.3
Key reserves – Sasha Stefanovic, G, 6-5, Jr., 10.6 ppg; Isaiah Thompson, G, 6-1, So., 4.9 ppg; Zach Edey, C, 7-4, Fr., 7.9 ppg; Aaron Wheeler, F, 6-9, Jr., 3.7 ppg.
Coach: Mark Painter 375-186 (17th season)
Notable: The Boilermakers trailed the Gophers by as much as 14 points in the first half in the Jan. 30 game, but they outscored them 51-27 in the second half. Purdue's freshmen foursome made the difference with a combined 51 points, including Brandon Newman scoring 21 of his career-high 29 points in the second half. Purdue freshman Jaden Ivey is averaging 12 points in his last seven games, including a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds in a 75-70 win last weekend vs. Northwestern ... Junior guard Sasha Stefanovic is playing his first game since being sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago.
Fuller's score prediction (Picks record 12-7): Gophers 75, Purdue 72