Gophers men’s basketball vs. No. 13 Purdue
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Slow starts – Richard Pitino described his team’s slow start Thursday’s overtime win against Penn State as “zombie-like” when the Gophers trailed for the first 30-plus minutes of the game. Not that the Nittany Lions weren’t good enough to be in control, but Minnesota didn’t look very interested in playing hard, smart and together for long stretches. Senior captain Jordan Murphy asked his teammates why they were playing like they were down 20 points. They realized the deficit was clearly within reach and rallied to force the extra period and advance to Friday’s quarterfinals. Second-seeded Purdue isn’t an opponent you want to fall behind big early. In fact, the Gophers were able to pull off the 73-69 upset last week by setting the tone in the first half and leading at halftime vs. the Boilermakers.
More than Coffey – The Gophers have putting so much of their offense on Amir Coffey’s shoulders that you expected things to fall apart when he eventually couldn’t carry the load. It did for most of the game Thursday, but Murphy and McBrayer took over go-to guy responsibilities in regulation vs. Penn State. Murphy, a three-time All-Big Ten forward, scored 10 of his 14 points in the first half. McBrayer had 15 of his 18 points in regulation, including some key baskets in the second half. Coffey eventually made his presence felt, so the combination of Minnesota’s Big Three was enough to pull off the comeback win in overtime. Coffey, McBrayer and Murphy combined for 55 points. In the last meeting with Purdue, the Gophers’ veteran trio also combined for 55 points, including a career-high tying 32 points from Coffey on 13-for-18 shooting from the foul line.
Foul shooting – Being one of the best teams in the country at getting to the foul line is only an advantage if you can make it count. The Gophers have 778 free throws attempted in 32 games this season, which is second in the Big Ten behind only Iowa’s 783. Minnesota’s 24.3 free throws attempted per game ranks 14th nationally. Lately, the Gophers have been capitalizing on that strength with 24-for-31 shooting in Thursday’s win against Penn State. Coffey was 10-for-11 from the charity stripe, which was the fourth time in his career he made double-digit free throws in a game (career-best was 14 vs. Nebraska at home this season). Murphy 7-for-8 from the line, which included 6-for-6 in the first half. McBrayer was also 4-for-6. The Gophers are 17-5 when shooting more free throws than their opponent this season.
Time: 6 p.m. CT, Friday. Where: United Center. Line: Gophers 8.0-point underdog. Series: Purdue leads the series 95-79 (excluding vacated games), but Minnesota won last meeting 73-69 on March 5 in Minneapolis.TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTNPlus Radio: 100.3 FM.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (20-12)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 16.2
G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 9.4
G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 9.9
F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 14.5
C- Daniel Oturu 6-10 Fr. 10.8
Reserves– Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 3.0 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 1.4 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, Fr., 0.8 ppg. Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 4.3 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 1.8 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 128-104 (7th season)
Notable: Redshirt sophomore big man Eric Curry had surgery Wednesday to repair ligament damage with his right foot. Curry, who averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18.7 minutes this year, was lost for the season after suffering the injury in practice last week … Senior center Matz Stockman replaced Curry in the rotation in the 73-69 win last week over No. 11 Purdue. The 7-foot Stockman had nine points, six rebounds and a career-high seven blocks … The Gophers are 2-1 against Purdue in the Big Ten tournament, including a 69-42 vs. No. 2 seeded Boilermakers in 2010. They reached their only Big Ten tournament championship that season falling to Ohio State.
NO. 13 PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (23-8)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Carsen Edwards 6-1 Jr. 23.4
G-Nojel Eastern 6-6 So. 7.6
G-Ryan Cline 6-6 Sr. 11.8
F-Grady Eifert 6-6 Sr. 5.7
C-Matt Haarms 7-3 So. 8.8
Key reserves–Aaron Wheeler, F, 6-9, Fr., 4.5 ppg; Eric Hunter, G, 6-3, Fr., 2.3 ppg; Evan Boudreaux, F, 6-8, Sr., 5.4 ppg; Trevion Williams, F, 6-8, Fr., 5.4 ppg; Sasha Stefanovic, G, 6-4, Fr., 2.7 ppg.
Coach: Matt Painter 318-162 (15th season)
Notable: The Boilermakers won a share of the regular season Big Ten title finishing 16-4 in conference play, which included a 73-63 win Feb. 3 against Minnesota in West Lafayette, Ind. Painter is vying for his second Big Ten tournament title, also winning the championship in 2009 … Purdue guard Carsen Edwards was named All-Big Ten first team Monday after averaging a league-best 23.4 points per game. Edwards had 22 points in his last meeting with Minnesota, but shot just 7-for-31 from the floor, including 3-for-15 from three-point range.
Fuller’s prediction: Purdue 78, Gophers 69. The Gophers have already punched their ticket to the NCAA tournament after Thursday’s win vs. Penn State, so the pressure is off to keep themselves on the right side of the bubble. Virginia Commonwealth lost in the Atlantic 10 conference quarterfinals to take away one more automatic bid. The Rams were predicted to be a No. 7 seed. Still, Minnesota shouldn’t fall lower than one of the higher 11th seeds even with other things shaking up the bubble in the next two days.