No. 11 Purdue at Gophers men’s basketball

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

Frontcourt battle – The Gophers did everything they needed to shut down Purdue’s three-point shooting (1-for-13 in the first half) in the last meeting Feb. 3 in West Lafayette, Ind. The Mackey Arena crowd watched in shock as Minnesota took a 47-34 lead with 14:13 remaining. It was all Boilermakers from that point on as they outscored the Gophers 43-16 the rest of the way in a 73-63 win, which included a 21-2 run. The inside game that sparked the comeback. Matt Haarms and Trevion Williams combined for 31 points and 12 rebounds overall. But Haarms was a game-changer in the second half with four of his five blocks, while also finishing with five offensive boards. Purdue outscored Minnesota 48-38 in points in the paint, grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and shot 12-for-16 from two-point range in the second half. Gophers freshman center Daniel Oturu had 19 points and nine rebounds, but only six points in the second half. Purdue coach Matt Painter used Harms’ size and length at 7-foot-3 to disrupt Gophers’ Jordan Murphy in the paint. Murphy was held to 10 points on 3-for-6 shooting in 25 minutes. No player will likely get bigger applause than Murphy when the U’s five seniors (also Dupree McBrayer, Brock Stull, Matz Stockman and Jarvis Johnson) are honored before Tuesday’s rematch vs. Purdue. As much as he’s accomplished in his career (Gophers’ leading rebounder and No. 2 in Big Ten history), Murphy’s legacy will definitely be enhanced if he finishes this season strong. That starts with a dominant performance against the Boilermakers when an NCAA tournament at-large bid is up for grabs.

The Carsen and Coffey Show – In the first meeting between two of the Big Ten’s most explosive scorers, Amir Coffey outscored Carsen Edwards 22-17. Coffey shot 8-for-13 from the field in 35 minutes. Edwards shot 6-for-20 in 36 minutes, including 1-for-9 from three-point range. Minnesota freshman Gabe Kalscheur slowed Edwards down as long as he could, but the junior guard eventually scored 15 points in the second half to lead Purdue’s surge. His outside shots weren’t falling, but Edwards was tough to stop driving hard to the basket with his powerfully built 6-1, 200-pound frame. Coffey looked like the best player on the floor for stretches, but that last Purdue game was followed by a six-game slump for the talented 6-8 junior from Hopkins. He averaged just 9.2 points on 30.8 percent shooting and Minnesota went 1-5 during that stretch. The Gophers needed Coffey to break out last week and he did with 31 points on 12-for-19 shooting and a career-high 12 rebounds in a 62-50 win at Northwestern. That effort earned Coffey Big Ten player of the week honors Monday, but a solid encore performance Tuesday is even more important from him. In two of his previous big scoring games this season, Coffey followed up with duds. His career-best 32-point game in a Dec. 5 win vs. Nebraska was followed with just 12 points and four turnovers three days later vs. Arkansas State. His 29-point game in a Jan. 12 win vs. Rutgers was followed with just nine points on 2-for-13 shooting in a 27-point loss at Illinois. Coffey played the full 40 minutes for the second straight game last week at Northwestern, but he had five days to rest up for is the biggest game of the season.   

Bench impact – The Gophers are getting the least amount of production from their bench as they’ve had all season. Part of that is because Richard Pitino has played his starters heavier minutes. There aren’t many players off the bench it seems that he trusts anymore in big games, which they all seem to be at this point trying to make an NCAA tourney push. Sophomore big man Eric Curry was announced to be out for the season with a right foot injury before Tuesday's game. Curry was the only player to score and log double-digit minutes off the bench with six points in 13 minutes at Northwestern. Stull and junior Michael Hurt provided some valuable time, but they only played nine minutes combined in Evanston. Stull was one of the best shooters in the Horizon League at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, but he seems afraid to shoot since joining the Gophers. Since hitting two threes in a win at Wisconsin on Jan. 3, Stull is just 1-for-3 from beyond the arc in 13 games. The Barn crowd might go crazy if he hits even one three-pointer Tuesday on Senior Night. Fans no doubt would love to see even a jelly finger roll from sophomore guard Isaiah Washington, who has zero points in his last four games on just two shots. Washington also didn’t play last Thursday against the Wildcats. Stockman, a 7-foot senior, hasn’t played in the last three games, which is surprising since the Gophers are 10-2 this season when he’s played 10 or more minutes. You would think he’d be useful against other 7-footers in the Big Ten. But he played two minutes in the last meeting vs. Purdue and not at all in both games vs. Michigan’s 7-1 Jon Teske. In the last six games, Minnesota’s bench has been outscored by the opponents 63-24 combined, including 18-0 in the loss at Rutgers. One of Purdue’s strengths is depth. Williams was a starter the last time the Boilermakers played the Gophers, but now he’s coming off the bench. The 6-foot-9, 280-pound freshman had 14 of his 16 points in the first half against Minnesota. Painter got 27 points off his bench in an 86-51 win against Ohio State over the weekend, including Aaron Wheeler’s 10 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes.

GAME INFO

Time: 7 p.m. CT, Tuesday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Gophers 5.5-point underdog. Series: Purdue leads the series 104-83, including winning the last meeting 73-63 on Feb. 3 in West Lafayette, Ind.TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTNPlus Radio: 100.3 FM.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA GOPHERS (16-8, 6-7 in Big Ten)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG 

G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 15.2

G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 9.1

G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 10.6

F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 14.6

C- Daniel Oturu 6-10 Fr. 11.3

Reserves– Eric Curry, F-C, 6-9, So., 4.1 ppg; Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 4.3 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 1.8 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 1.4 ppg; Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 2.7 ppg; Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, Fr., 0.9 ppg.

Coach: Richard Pitino 126-103 (7th season)  

Notable: Four-year seniors Murphy and McBrayer will play their last Big Ten home game Tuesday. Murphy has 1,705 career points, which just passed Kevin McHale for seventh on the U’s all-time scoring list. His 1,248 career rebounds is No. 1 in team history and second in Big Ten history. McBrayer, who is averaging 9.1 points and 2.9 assists this season, is the seventh Gophers player to join the 1,000-point, 300-assist club. Stull (UW-Milwaukee) and Stockman (Louisville) are playing their one and only season at Minnesota as transfers.

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (22-7, 15-3) 

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G- Carsen Edwards 6-1 Jr. 23.5

G- Nojel Eastern 6-6 So. 7.2

G- Ryan Cline 6-6 Sr. 11.7

F- Grady Eifert 6-6 Sr. 5.5

C- Matt Haarms 7-3 So. 8.9

Key reserves– Aaron Wheeler, F, 6-9, Fr., 4.8 ppg; Trevion Williams, C, 6-9, Fr., 5.6 ppg; Evan Boudreaux, F, 6-8, Jr., 5.7 ppg; Eric Hunter Jr., G, 6-3, Fr., 2.3 ppg; Sasha Stefanovic, G, 6-4, Fr., 2.8 ppg.

Coach: Matt Painter 342-161 (15th season)  

Notable: The Boilermakers are on a five-game winning streak after an 86-51 win against Ohio State on their Senior Day over the weekend. They can clinch at least a share of the Big Ten regular season title with a victory Tuesday in Minneapolis. Michigan (15-4) and Michigan State (14-4) are currently a game or less behind Purdue in the league standings with two games remaining … Edwards has combined for 48 points in his last two games, including 25 points Saturday vs. the Buckeyes. Edwards had just 22 points combined on 7-for-40 shooting from the field (1-for-20 from three-point range) in the two games before that.  

Fuller’s predictionGophers 74, Purdue 71. The Gophers are 3-2 on Senior Night in the Pitino Era, but they’ve won their final Big Ten home game in two straight seasons. Who could forget Nate Mason’s 33-point performance last year in a win against rival Iowa at the Barn? Mason was the best guard to play for Pitino – and Murphy is the best player. It’s hard to believe he wouldn’t save his best for last Tuesday in a game that means so much to the U’s NCAA tournament hopes. The Gophers probably need two more quality wins to secure a bid, but beating Purdue would highlight their resume so far.

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Pregame: How can Amir Coffey keep up his high-scoring pace? Rebound for starters