Gophers men’s hoops vs. Florida International

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

Block party – The Gophers have a size advantage in Saturday’s game against Florida International, but that doesn’t mean getting shots in the paint will be easy. Don’t be surprised if it takes Gophers center Daniel Oturu and his teammates a few times getting their shots rejected to learn to pump fake. The Panthers are tied with Memphis for top in Division I basketball with 6.8 blocks per game, which included a season-high 12 blocks vs. Ave Maria on Nov. 8, 2019. FIU’s 6-foot-9 senior Osasumwen Osaghae leads the nation with 4.6 blocks per game, including twice recording eight blocks in a game. At 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan, Oturu is a rim protector in his own right ranking second in the Big Ten with 3.4 blocks per game. The Gophers also rank second in the conference with 5.4 blocks per game this season.

Threes a company – Expect to see three-pointers a plenty from both teams Saturday at the Barn. FIU’s first road win this season came in a 107-61 victory at Cleveland State. What’s the significance of that night? They drilled a school-record 19 threes, the most for the program since 1995. Eric Lovett and Cameron Corcoran made four threes apiece. The Panthers rank first in Conference USA in threes per game (10.3) and second in three-point percentage (36.6). The Gophers rank second in the Big Ten in threes per game (9.1) and fourth in three-point percentage (35.5). They also defeated Cleveland State 85-50 in the season opener Nov. 5 after shooting 13 for 29 from three-point range. The best shooter on the floor will be Gophers sophomore Gabe Kalscheur, who had a career-best 34 points on 7 for 9 shooting from long distance in an 86-66 win vs. Oklahoma State in Tulsa last week. His performance came just in time since Minnesota was without junior guard Payton Willis (ankle), who was leading the Big Ten with 27 threes through 10 games. Willis is sidelined again for Saturday’s game against FIU.

Run ‘n gun – How were the Gophers so successful offensively scoring a combined 170 points in wins vs. Ohio State and Oklahoma State in the last two games? A big reason was being able to score consistently in transition with 13 fastbreak points vs. the Buckeyes and a season-best 25 fastbreak points against the Cowboys. Sophomore point guard Marcus Carr had a career-best 35 points vs. Ohio State pushing the pace for the Gophers, but he became a facilitator against Oklahoma State with 11 assists. Carr connected with Kalscheur often for threes in transition. Oturu was also rewarded for running the floor and getting deep post touches before the opposing defense could set up. FIU thrives even more with a Run ‘n Gun style, ranking 15th in the nation in adjusted tempo (75.5), according to KenPom. But they also take longer than anyone in college basketball when scoring in halfcourt sets with an average possession length of 13.9 seconds.

GAME INFO

Time: 3 p.m. CT, Saturday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota 14-point favorite. Series: Gophers lead the series 1-0, including first meeting 99-75 on Dec. 10, 1988 in Minneapolis. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTN2go. Radio: 100.3.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA GOPHERS (6-5)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG 

G – Marcus Carr 6-2 190 So. 14.6

G – Tre’ Williams 6-5 195 Fr. 3.1

G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 So. 13.3

F – Alihan Demir 6-9 235 Sr. 7.8

C – Daniel Oturu 6-10 245 So. 18.0

Key reserves– Jarvis Omersa, F, 6-7, So., 2.9 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Sr., 2.4 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, Fr., 1.0.

Coach: Richard Pitino 136-111 (8th season overall)  

Notable: Redshirt junior big man Eric Curry had successful surgery last month on a torn ACL in his right knee suffered during practice Oct. 7. The 6-9 redshirt junior hasn’t played a full season since his freshman year in 2016-17 after tearing ligaments in his left knee in 2017 and foot surgery last season ... Willis, a 6-5 junior and Vanderbilt transfer, will miss his second straight game with a left ankle injury Saturday. He first suffered the injury in a Dec. 9 loss at Iowa. Willis averages 11 points per game and is shooting 38 percent from three-point range.

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (9-3)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G – Trejon Jacob 6-5 Sr. 12.0

G – Antonio Daye 6-1 So. 10.3

G – Cameron Corcoran 6-1 So. 6.4  

F – Devon Andrews 6-6 Sr. 16.7

C – Osasumwen Osaghae 6-9 Sr. 13.4

Key reserves – Eric Lovett, G, 6-5, Jr., 9.1 ppg; Isaiah Banks, G, 6-5, Jr., 8.7 ppg; Tevin Brewer, G, 5-8, Jr., 7.0 ppg; Dimon Carrigan, F, 6-9, Jr., 4.0 ppg; Blake Furcron, G, 6-4, Jr., 2.6 ppg.

Coach: Jeremy Ballard 29-17 (2nd season)  

Notable: Pitino led FIU to the program’s first winning season in more than a decade going 18-14 in 2012-13. In Jeremy Ballard’s first season as head coach, the Panthers reached the 20-win mark and advanced to only their second postseason in program history going to the CIT (CollegeInsiders.com Tournament). Their first postseason appearance was in the 1995 NCAA tournament. Last season, FIU led the nation in forced turnovers per game (19.6) and steals per game (5.6). This season, the Panthers fourth in the nation in steals (10.3) and 12th in turnovers forced per game (18.7).

Fuller’s prediction (5-5 with picks): Gophers 75, Florida International 66. 

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