The Gophers men's basketball team will get a frontcourt boost Saturday against Northwestern with the return of freshman Pharrel Payne, but leading scorer Dawson Garcia will miss his second straight game.
Garcia and Payne missed Wednesday's 61-57 loss against Indiana when the Gophers competed with just seven scholarship players. But Payne will get his first career start today at Northwestern.
Garcia, the team's leading scorer (14.9 points per game) and rebounder (6.3 rebounds per game), suffered a bone bruise on his right foot in the second half of last weekend's 60-56 loss at Michigan. He wasn't dressed for Saturday's game against Northwestern.
Payne (7.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 1.1 blocks and 21 dunks) had to clear concussion protocol after he was hurt in the Michigan loss. The 6-9 Cottage Grove native had been making strides defensively matching up with the league's top big men the last two games.
Freshman guard Braeden Carrington, the top scoring perimeter player off the bench, will miss his third straight game with a right leg stress reaction. The Gophers were tied with Nebraska entering Saturday with five players out with injury, including Parker Fox and Isaiah Ihnen with season-ending knee injuries.
Time: 11 a.m. CT, Saturday. Where: Welsh-Ryan Arena. Line: Gophers 12-point underdogs. Series: Gophers leads 101-70, including 75-62 win in Evanston on March 6, 2022. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTN-Plus. Radio: 100.3-FM
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (7-12, 1-8 BIG TEN)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Ta'Lon Cooper 6-4 195 Jr. 10.6
G – Taurus Samuels 6-1 195 Sr. 2.7
F – Jamison Battle 6-7 220 Jr. 12.6
F – Joshua Ola-Joseph 6-7 215 Fr. 7.0
F – Pharrel Payne 6-9 255 Fr. 7.2
Key reserves – Treyton Thompson, C, 7-0, So., 2.0 ppg; Jaden Henley, G, 6-7, Fr., 3.9 ppg; Will Ramberg, F, 6-5, Jr., 1.6 ppg.
Coach: Ben Johnson 20-29 career (2nd season)
Notable: Gophers forward Jamison Battle, who missed the first four games this season after foot surgery, has been playing with a lingering back injury suffered in Jan. 16 loss vs. Illinois. Battle, who averages nearly 13 points per game, only has eight points combined on 4-for-20 shooting in the losses to Purdue and Illinois. … The Gophers announced 6-8 freshman forward Kadyn Betts will redshirt the 2022-23 season after reclassifying and joining the team early this year. Betts will be part of a highly touted 2023 class that was signed Nov. 9, including five-star center Dennis Evans III and four-star guard Cameron Christie. Christie and Evans were named McDonald's All-American nominees last week. … The Gophers have won six of the last eight meetings against Northwestern but haven't beaten the Wildcats in Evanston since an 83-57 victory on Feb. 23, 2020.
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (14-5, 5-3)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Boo Buie 6-2 180 Sr. 13.4
G – Ty Berry 6-3 185 Jr. 10.1
G – Chase Audige 6-4 200 Sr. 15.3
F – Robbie Beran 6-9 215 Sr. 9.1
F – Matthew Nicholson 7-0 255 Jr. 6.7
Reserves – Brooks Barnhizer, G, 6-6, So., 5.7 ppg; Tydus Verhoeven, F, 6-9, Sr., 2.1 ppg; Nick Martinelli, F, 6-7, Sr., 2.2 ppg.
Coach: Chris Collins 147-155 (10th season)
Notable: The Wildcats saw their season take a different path after they suffered back-to-back losses in late November, which included falling by 29 points vs. Pittsburgh at home in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. They won seven of the next eight games, including against Michigan State, Illinois and Indiana. A COVID-19 pause last week helped Northwestern regroup again after two straight losses with wins against Wisconsin and Nebraska. Ty Berry had a career-high 26 points on 6-for-12 three-point shooting Wednesday against the Cornhuskers.
Fuller's score prediction: Northwestern 68, Gophers 60.