CHAMPAIGN, IL – Reggie Lynch was talking to reporters outside of the locker room after Saturday’s 68-59 win at Illinois when Jordan Murphy tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
Murphy wanted to congratulate his Gophers starting frontcourt mate.
A five-game losing streak was over largely in part to Minnesota’s 6-foot-10 junior staying out of foul trouble and making his presence felt inside with 15 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 32 minutes.
It was only the second time in 10 Big Ten games that Lynch had fewer than three fouls. He fouled out six times, including in last weekend’s loss against Maryland at home. So it was satisfying for the Edina native to be on the floor the help his team finish strong Saturday.
“It’s very optimistic for me to know what I can bring to the team,” Lynch said. “As long as I just stay on the floor and not have to worry about fouls. It was good to be disciplined blocking shots and (not) fouling today. I’m going to make sure I continue to do that going forward.”
Lynch has made the most of limited minutes his entire career. He was only averaging 22.0 minutes entering Saturday’s game, which was slightly fewer minutes than he averaged (22.2) in his last season at Illinois State in 2014-15.
But Lynch is leading the Big Ten in swats this season, while his 68 blocks are eighth all-time in the U's single-season record books.
For the seventh time in 10 games, Lynch has scored in double figures. But he tied a career-high with six field goals made, something he hadn’t done since 2015 with the Redbirds.
Saturday’s performance could be a sign that Lynch is finally getting comfortable playing in a tougher, more physical Big Ten.
The best highlight of the game was Lynch’s block on Malcolm Hill’s dunk attempt, meeting him at the rim for the Dikembe Mutumbo-like rejection in the first half.
“When Reggie Lynch stays out of foul trouble we’re a different team,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “He protects a lot of things for us.”
FAMILY TIME: Senior Akeem Springs, who finished with 14 points and six rebounds, had 20 family members and friends in attendance Saturday, driving from as far as Mississippi to see the game.
Springs went to high school in Waukegan, Illinois, which is about three hours away. He started his college career at Northern Illinois in DeKalb.
Amir Coffey’s father, Richard, came to the game from Minnesota. Fellow freshman Eric Curry’s mother, Audrea, and several family members also traveled to see him from Memphis.
GUARDS DOMINATE: Minnesota’s starting backcourt Nate Mason, Amir Coffey and Springs combined for 40 points and 14 rebounds Saturday. Illinois’ backcourt of Te’Jon Lucas, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Hill had just 16 points on 6-for-33 shooting from the field, including 1-for-18 from three-point range.
Coleman-Lands, who shoots 38.6 percent from three-point range, had arguably the worst game of his career with zero points on 0-for-10 shooting in 25 minutes.
CONROY’S GUY: Gophers assistant coach Ed Conroy joked that he’s a pretty good recruiter since Illinois redshirt freshman Kipper Nichols actually signed with him out of high school.
Nichols, who led the Illini with 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting Saturday, signed to play for Conroy at Tulane. But the Ohio native was let out of his letter of intent in September 2015 to be closer to home.