THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Battle of the bigs – For the first time in his college career, Reggie Lynch will be facing one of the top centers in the nation. Lynch battled Northern Iowa’s All-American forward Seth Tuttle when he played at Illinois State. But Moses Kingsley comes to the Barn on Tuesday as the preseason SEC player of the year. The 6-foot-10, 230-pound senior is off to a slow start offensively (averaging just 9.7 points), but he’s a beast defensively (second in NCAA with 5.3 blocks). Lynch is the best low-post shot blocking presence for the Gophers in years. His nine-block performance Friday against St. John’s was third all-time in school history. But just as impressive was Lynch tying a career-high with 32 minutes. Jordan Murphy and Eric Curry take pressure off Lynch to score inside, but the 6-10 Edina native can’t get into early foul trouble. The Gophers need him protecting the rim.
Handling Hell – In the last meeting with Arkansas in Maui, Minnesota led at halftime by five points after shooting 65 percent! But the Razorbacks turned up their trademark “40 minutes of Hell” full-court pressure in the second half to outscore the Gophers 52-33 en route to a 14-point win. Taking care of the ball will be critical for primary ball handlers Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer. They’ve been impressive so far this season, helping Minnesota commit just 12.3 turnovers a game (third fewest in the Big Ten).
Coffey’s encore – What will be Amir Coffey’s follow-up performance after his 30 points led Minnesota to overcome a 13-point deficit in a 92-86 win against St. John’s? Coffey is now leading the team with 15.8 points, but his season-high previously was 13. Can the gifted freshman be consistently aggressive? Others have had to light a fire under him. But Coffey usually plays better in big games, which included leading Hopkins to a state title his senior year in high school.
Time: 7 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Gophers by 2 1/2 points Series: Arkansas leads 3-1; Minnesota lost last meeting, 87-73, in Maui Invitational in 2013. TV: None. Online/Live video: ESPN3. Radio: 1500-AM.
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 13.5
G-Dupree McBrayer 6-5 So. 14.8
G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 15.8
F-Jordan Murphy 6-7 So. 11.8
C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 R-Jr. 9.0
Key reserves – Akeem Springs, G, 6-4, Sr., 6.8 ppg; Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 7.2 ppg
Coach: Richard Pitino 55-51 (4 seasons)
Notable: The Gophers scored 80 or more points in four straight games for the first time since 1992-93. Minnesota under Clem Haskins that season averaged 93 points during a 6-0 start. Pitino’s team is currently ranked fifth in the Big Ten with 85.5 points per game. Almost as impressive, though, is the Gophers’ field goal percentage defense (35.6), ranked second in the conference.
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Jaylen Barford 6-3 Jr. 12.0
G-Daryl Macon 6-3 Jr. 10.7
G-Dusty Hannahs 6-4 Sr. 17.7
F-Dustin Thomas 6-8 R-Jr. 6.7
C-Moses Kingsley 6-10 Sr. 9.7
Key reserves – Manuale Watkins, G, 6-3, Sr., 7.0 ppg; Anton Beard, G, 6-0, Jr., 9.7; Trey Thompson, F, 6-9, Jr., 4.0; Arlando Cook, F, 6-8, Jr., 3.3
Coach: Mike Anderson 305-162 (15 seasons)
Notable: The Razorbacks scored 90 points or more in their first two games, winning by double digits. But they struggled to beat Texas-Arlington (former Gophers opponent) in a 71-67 win Friday at home. Arlington actually led Arkansas by as many as 17 points in the first half. Kingsley and Hannahs, two All-SEC caliber players, combined to score just 16 points on 4-for-15 shooting from the field in the game.
Fuller’s prediction (4-0 record): Gophers 81, Arkansas 77. The Gophers have one of their most balanced and high-scoring offenses in years, led by the three-guard lineup of Mason, McBrayer and Coffey. The battle of the big men with Kingsley vs. Lynch might be the most intriguing. But Hannahs and his backcourt teammates have the ability to put up big numbers. If Minnesota’s guards are able to handle the full-court press, this will be Pitino’s most impressive nonconference victory at home in four years.