Ohio State at Gophers
THREE THINGS TO WATCH:
CLUTCH COFFEY–.Amir Coffey ranks second in scoring (14.0 points per game) among freshmen in Big Ten games. He led the Gophers in scoring with 17 points in Thursday’s 70-66 win at Northwestern, which included some clutch plays in the second half. Coffey’s three-pointer, assist to Akeem Springs for a layup and fastbreak dunk was part of a 10-0 run that helped Minnesota go from down 47-40 to up by three points midway through the second half. Coffey’s shooting better from three-point range (50 percent at 6-for-12) than free throws (46.2 percent at 6-for-13). Don't forget to watch Big Ten Network's "The Journey" at 8:30 CT for a segment on Coffey and his family.
LYNCH FACTOR– No center is more important to their team’s success in the Big Ten than Reggie Lynch. The 6-foot-10 junior leads the nation in shot block percentage (15.3) and ranks first in the conference in blocks per game (3.2). Lynch isn’t a dominant scoring and rebounding presence, but his 12 points and eight rebounds were crucial in the win at Northwestern. He had 10 points in the second half. Foul trouble has limited his production throughout his career. Lynch 16.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 6.2 blocks per 40 minutes this season. He averages 20.6 minutes per game.
LOVING GOPHERS– Ohio State’s Marc Loving raised his game to a higher level against the Gophers the last two seasons. The 6-foot-8 senior averaged 15 points and six rebounds in three previous games in the series. He led the Buckeyes with 20 points in a 15-point win against Minnesota in Columbus last season in the Big Ten opener. But Loving’s most memorable moment against the Gophers came in Ohio State’s last game at the Barn. Loving nailed a jumper with 5.6 seconds left in a 74-72 overtime win at Minnesota in 2014-15. Gophers fans will remember that as the game current Los Angeles Lakers guard De’Angelo Russell was held to just two of his 27 points in the second half and overtime.
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT, Sunday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota by 5 1/2. Series: Ohio State leads 84-56; Minnesota lost last meeting 78-63 Dec. 30, 2015 in Columbus. TV: BTN. Online/Live video: BTN2Go Radio: 1500ESPN.
MINNESOTA (14-2, 2-1)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-Nate Mason 6-2 Jr. 14.5
G-Dupree McBrayer 6-5 So. 12.3
G-Amir Coffey 6-8 Fr. 12.3
F-Jordan Murphy 6-7 So. 10.8
C-Reggie Lynch 6-10 Jr. 8.5
Key reserves – Eric Curry, F/C, 6-9, Fr., 6.3 ppg; Akeem Springs, G, 6-4, Sr., 8.6 ppg; Bakary Konate, C, 6-11, Jr., 2.2 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Fr., 1.3 ppg
Coach: Richard Pitino 83-67 (5th season)
Notable: The Gophers have lost 11 of the last 13 meetings with Ohio State, including four straight. Their last win in the series was 63-53 at home Jan. 16, 2014. Minnesota ranks fifth in the nation and leads all major conference teams in free throw attempts with 431 this season. Problem is Pitino’s team is 10th in the Big Ten in free throw percentage at 68.9 percent.
OHIO STATE (10-5, 0-2)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G-JaQuan Lyle 6-5 So. 11.6
G-Kam Williams 6-2, RS-Jr. 10.7
G-Jae’Sean Tate 6-4 Jr. 14.1
F-Marc Loving 6-8 Sr. 11.7
C-Trevor Thompson 7-0 RS-Jr. 10.4
Key reserves–Keita Bates-Diop, F, 6-7, Jr., 9.7 ppg; C.J. Jackson, G, 6-1, So., 3.7 ppg; Micah Potter, C, 6-9, Fr., 4.4 ppg
Coach: Thad Matta 432-144 (17th season)
Notable: Ohio State’s Tate is one of only three major conference players 6-foot or shorter averaging at least six rebounds a game, joining Washington’s Markelle Fultz and Gonzaga’s Nigel Williams-Goss. The Buckeyes have never started the Big Ten season 0-3 under Matta, who has coached the program since 2004.
Fuller’s prediction (14-2 picks record): Gophers 73, Ohio State 68. The Gophers turned into road warriors to win their first two conference games this season. After blowing a big second-half lead to lose the Big Ten opener at home Dec. 27 against Michigan State, Minnesota found its groove winning back-to-back conference road games for the first time since 2012. That makes up for the disappointing loss to the Spartans. But the Gophers still have get their first Big Ten home win of the season. Fans have been warming up to Pitino’s team this year. It will likely take a few home wins, though, to forget the 2-7 record at the Barn in the Big Ten in 2015-16. Sunday night would be a good start.