Southern Illinois at Gophers
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Lynch’s ankle– Gophers center Reggie Lynch’s injured ankle limited him to only four minutes in the second half of Tuesday’s 85-71 win against Arkansas. He still finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three blocks in 21 minutes. The 6-foot-10 junior was expected to play as of game time Friday. But Lynch might not be needed for extended minutes against Southern Illinois. Freshman forward Eric Curry tied his season-high with 12 points against Arkansas in 27 minutes. Junior center Bakary Konate also had four points in four minutes.
Bench performance – Minnesota didn’t pull away from Arkansas until senior Akeem Springs sparked a 22-4 run with 11 points, including three three-pointers in the first half. Springs and Curry combined for 23 of the team’s 30 bench points on Tuesday. The Gophers’ bench is averaging 21.6 points in five games this season. Sophomore Ahmad Gilbert has four three-pointers this season, including three in the first half of the last two games.
Coffey’s scoring – Are we seeing a new Amir Coffey? The 6-8 freshman has been more aggressive offensively since scoring 30 points against St. John’s last week. He was scoreless in the first half against Arkansas, but Coffey had all of his 19 points on 7-for-9 shooting in the second half. He leads the team with 16.4 points per game. But Coffey usually asserts himself once his teammates get the opportunity to score. Should he be more selfish to start the game?
Time: 7 p.m. CT, Friday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Gophers by 16 points Series: Tied 1-1; Minnesota lost last meeting, 69-53, in Old Spice Classic in 2006. TV: None. Online/Live video: BTN Plus/BTN2go app. Radio: 107.1 FM.
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 13.4
G-Dupree McBrayer 6-5 So. 12.4
G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 16.4
F-Jordan Murphy 6-7 So. 11.4
C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 R-Jr. 9.2
Key reserves – Akeem Springs, G, 6-4, Sr., 7.6 ppg; Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 8.2 ppg; Ahmad Gilbert, F, 6-6, So., 2.8.
Coach: Richard Pitino 56-51 (4 seasons)
Notable: The Gophers opened the season with six straight home games for the first time since 1999-2000, when they started 6-0. Richard Pitino’s best start was 5-0 in his first season in 2013-14. Pitino also won his first nine home games that season. His first loss at Williams Arena as Minnesota’s coach wasn’t until the Big Ten opener against Michigan in 2014.
Southern Illinois (3-2)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Armon Fletcher 6-4 So. 13.4
G-Leo Vincent 6-1 Sr. 12.4
G-Mike Rodriguez 5-10 Sr. 14.6
F-Thik Bol 6-8 Jr. 9.6
C-Sean O’Brien 6-7 Sr. 13.4
Key reserves – Sean Lloyd, G, 6-5, So., 6.2; Austin Weiher, F, 6-8, So., 4.2; Aaron Cook, G, 6-1, Fr. 3.8; Rudy Strandnieks, C, 6-9, So., 2.4
Coach: Barry Hinson 270-209 (16 seasons)
Notable: The Salukis have three major conference opponents on their schedule this season. They loss to Arkansas 90-65 on Nov. 14. They travel to play at Louisville on Dec. 7. Southern Illinois is 0-8 against Power Five opponents since an NIT first-round victory against Oklahoma State in 2008.
Fuller’s prediction (5-0 record): Gophers 84, Southern Illinois 68. As bad as last season was, Minnesota got five of its eight wins last season in November (5-2 record). If the Gophers don’t suffer a Thanksgiving hangover Friday night, they could go undefeated into a big matchup at Florida State on Monday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Salukis have averaged more than 83 points a game since losing to Arkansas, so they will be confident coming in. But Pitino’s team is riding high as well. Jordan Murphy reminds everyone why he has all-conference potential to lead Minnesota to its first 6-0 start since 2011.