Nate Mason and Reggie Lynch were big parts of the Gophers' turnaround this season — and now they have big honors to show for it: first-team All-Big Ten and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
The honors were announced Monday evening, making Mason the first first-team Gopher since 2005 and Lynch the first defensive MVP since Travarus Bennett in 2002.
Their coach, Richard Pitino, was named Big Ten Coach of the Year — a story on his honor can be found at startribune.com/gophers.
Mason, a junior guard from Georgia, leads the team with 15.5 points and about five assists per game.
In his last 11 games, Mason averaged 18.8 points and scored in double figures in each game. His 17.2 points per game in the Big Ten was the program's highest scoring average in league play since Vincent Grier's 18.0 points in 2004-05. Grier was the last Gophers player to earn All-Big Ten first team honors.
Ethan Happ of Wisconsin, Iowa's Peter Jok, Purdue's Caleb Swanigan and Maryland's Melo Trimble rounded out the All-Big Ten team.
Lynch, the 6-foot-10 junior center from Edina, led the Big Ten with 3.7 blocks per game and 106 total. He had 11 blocks against Penn State.
Lynch broke U legend Randy Breuer's single-season blocks record set in 1982-83. Lynch's 106 blocks are the most in the Big Ten since Ohio State's Ken Johnson had 125 in 2000-01, which is third all-time in conference history.
Minnesota is tied Ohio State's 2006-07 team for the Big Ten season blocks record at 218.
A third honor came when Amir Coffey was named to the All-Big Ten Freshman Team. Coffey, the 6-8 guard from Hopkins, is second on the team with a 12.0 points per game average.
Later, Jordan Murphy was named to the All-Big Ten third team.
Quite a change from last March.