Gophers men’s basketball at No. 24 Maryland
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
Boarding Coffey – Gophers junior guard Amir Coffey has 63 points on 20-for-34 shooting from the field combined in his last two games, which included tying his career-high with 32 points on 13-for-18 foul shooting in the Purdue win. Coffey became the first Gopher with back-to-back 30-point performances since Vincent Grier had 32 points vs. Wisconsin and Northwestern in the 2014-15 season. What was biggest change in his last two games? Coffey had 20 rebounds combined, including his first double-double with 31 points and 12 rebounds at Northwestern. Minnesota is 6-0 this season when Coffey grabs six or more boards in a game, which includes wins vs. Nebraska, Wisconsin and Indiana. In an 82-67 loss Jan. 8 against Maryland, Coffey had 16 points but just one rebound (zero defensively) in 37 minutes. On Tuesday, Coffey had seven of his eight rebounds on the defensive end. Why is that so significant? It allows the former Hopkins standout to start the fastbreak himself where he and the Gophers are at their best scoring before the opposition gets set on defense. Rebounding was not something Coffey took seriously in nonconference play, averaging just 2.6 boards per game. Even with the top two performances on the glass in his career in consecutive games, Coffey is still only tied with Cowan at 3.7 rebounds per game overall. Cowan’s generously listed at 6-feet tall. Coffey’s the tallest starting guard in the Big Ten at 6-8, so the Gophers are encouraged to see him finally using that size to crash the boards more regularly. Just as a comparison, the top five rebounding guards in the Big Ten are Purdue’s 6-6 Nojel Eastern (5.8), Michigan’s 6-foot Zavier Simpson (5.1), Penn State’s 6-5 Josh Reaves (4.7), Iowa’s 6-6 Joe Wieskamp (4.7) and Northwestern’s 6-4 Anthony Gaines (4.6). Imagine how much better Minnesota will be rebounding as a team if Coffey continues to hit the glass like the last two games.
Containing Cowan – The Terrapins are coming off a home loss against Michigan where their leading scorer Anthony Cowan was held to just 10 points on 4-for-15 shooting. Cowan had a team-high 27 points against the Gophers earlier this season, but 23 of those points came in the second half. Minnesota’s top perimeter defender Gabe Kalscheur held Cowan in check in the first half, but the freshman didn’t get enough help from his teammates off ball screens after halftime. Cowan went 10-for-10 from the foul line, including 8-for-8 in the second half. Kalscheur did his best to limit Purdue’s Carsen Edwards on Tuesday, but he ended up fouling out. Edwards finished with 22 points, but Kalscheur and Coffey forced him to shoot just 7-for-31 from the field, including 3-for-15 from three-point range.
Elite frontcourt – Maryland freshman Jalen Smith, who is averaging 11.2 points and 6.5 rebounds this season, had 21 points and eight rebounds in his first meeting with Minnesota. So far that was Smith’s highest scoring game all season. In his next game after beating the Gophers, the 6-10 Baltimore native had just two points on 0-for-9 shooting from the field. Inconsistency can be expected for freshmen, but he’s averaging just 7.4 points in his last five games. Sophomore Bruno Fernando was named a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist Friday. Fernando’s proven to be one of the nation’s top centers with averages of 13.5 points, Big Ten-high 11.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in league games. Purdue’s Matt Haarms struggled with just three points on 1-for-8 shooting Tuesday against the Gophers. Trevion Williams also went scoreless with four fouls in just three minutes. Haarms and Williams had 31 points combined in the first meeting. Did Richard Pitino make adjustments with Daniel Oturu and Jordan Murphy in the paint? Didn't look that way. It could be the added presence of 7-foot senior Matz Stockman, who had nine points, six rebounds and seven blocks against the Boilermakers. Stockman only played five combined minutes in the first two games vs. Purdue and Maryland, but he will have a bigger role Friday with reserve big man Eric Curry sidelined with a season-ending foot injury.
Time: 7 p.m. CT, Friday. Where: XFINITY Center. Line: Gophers 7.0-point underdogs. Series: Maryland leads the all-time series 8-2.TV: FS1. Online/Live video: FoxSportsGo Radio: 100.3 FM.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS (19-11, 9-10 in Big Ten)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 15.8
G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 9.1
G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 10.3
F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 14.5
C- Daniel Oturu 6-10 Fr. 11.0
Reserves– Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 3.0 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 1.5 ppg; Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 4.3 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 127-103 (7th season)
Notable: Redshirt sophomore big man Eric Curry injured suffered a ligament tear in his right foot in Monday’s practice and is out for the season. The 6-foot-9 Memphis native has dealt with a number of injuries while at Minnesota, most recently a calf injury that caused him to miss two games in February. He missed the team’s first 12 games after preseason knee surgery, after missing all of last season with torn ligaments and meniscus in his left knee. Curry. who was averaging 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds in 18.7 minutes this season, had six points and four rebounds in 13 minutes off the bench in last Thursday’s 62-50 win at Northwestern ... Junior forward Michael Hurt is available to play Friday after missing Tuesday's game with a groin injury ... The Gophers were 9-for-24 from the foul line in the Jan. 8 loss vs. Maryland, but they have only reached double-figure misses in free throws twice in the 15 games since (21-for-31 vs. Iowa and 10-for-20 at Rutgers).
MARYLAND TERRAPINS (21-9, 12-7)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G- Anthony Cowan 6-0 Jr. 15.7
G-Eric Ayala 6-5 Fr. 8.5
F-Aaron Wiggins 6-6 Fr. 8.6
F-Jalen Smith 6-10 Fr. 11.2
F-Bruno Fernando 6-10 So. 14.1
Key reserves– Darryl Morsel, G, 6-5, So., 7.8 ppg; Serrel Smith Jr., 6-4, Fr., 3.8 ppg; Ricky Lindo Jr., F, 6-8, Fr., 1.8 ppg.
Coach: Mark Turgeon 428-249 (21st season)
Notable: The Terrapins rank 16th nationally in field goal percentage defense (39.6) and have held four of their last seven opponents under 37 percent shooting. Maryland is 25th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.
Fuller’s prediction: Maryland 71, Gophers 64. The Gophers won’t be in desperation mode when they play Friday at Maryland. That’s thanks to the upset Tuesday over No. 11 Purdue to improve the Quadrant 1 record to 3-8 this season. That appears to put Pitino’s team in a good spot to make the NCAA tournament (currently projected No. 10 seed). Pitino can remove any doubt on Selection Sunday with another Quad 1 victory (Terps are No. 28 in the NET) and remain in the mix for the No. 6 seed in the Big Ten tournament. The Terps also have something their playing for trying to stop a two-game slide on Senior Night.