Gophers men’s basketball at No. 17 Purdue

THREE THINGS TO WATCH:

Three-point barrage – There’s really no way around it. If Purdue has a typical day lighting up the scoreboard from beyond the arc, then it won’t be a competitive game Sunday for long in West Lafayette, Ind. Last season, the Boilermakers combined to shoot 26-for-60 from three-point range (43.3 percent) in two wins against the Gophers by a combined 58 points. Purdue shot 72-for-156 (46.2 percent) from long distance during its current six-game winning streak. It leads the Big Ten with 10.9 threes per game, while Minnesota is last in the conference with 5.5. Boilermakers guard Carsen Edwards and Ryan Cline have shot more three-pointers this season combined than the entire Minnesota team 375 to 363. Edwards scored 38 points with eight of his team's season-best 16 three-pointers in a 99-90 overtime win Thursday against Penn State.

Offensive adjustments – The Gophers trailed in the first half Wednesday at home against Illinois, but they outscored the Illini 49-36 in the second half. So what was the adjustment? Richard Pitino said he decided to scrap the playbook and go with the 5-out motion offense. Basically this offense is positionless and spreads the floor. It allows all five players to read the defense to either make curls or cuts to the basket to score. Minnesota shot 50 percent in the second half, including 6-for-15 from three-point range. They finished with five players in double figures, including starters Amir Coffey, Jordan Murphy and Gabe Kalscheur combining for 48 points. WIll they go back to the dribble handoff offense or stick with the 5-out motion against Purdue?

Bench spark – Minnesota doesn’t have a very deep bench, but Isaiah Washington and Daniel Oturu combined for 23 points in Wednesday’s 86-75 win against Illinois. Washington took pressure off Coffey to handle primary ballhandling duties in the second half. The New York native finished with 12 points, four assists and zero turnovers. It was his first double figure scoring game in the Big Ten this season. He had just seven points combined on 3-for-9 shooting in the previous three games. Pitino’s decision to move Oturu to a reserve role added some firepower. Oturu averages 10.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. After returning from missing a game with a shoulder injury, the 6-foot-10 freshman had 11 points on 7-for-10 free throws and eight rebounds in just 19 minutes against Illinois. Bench play was huge in Minnesota's 91-82 overtime win at Purdue on New Year's Day in 2017. Eric Curry, who is now the U's starting center, scored seven of his 10 points in the extra period.

GAME INFO

Time: 11 a.m. CT, Sunday. Where: Mackey Arena. Line: Gophers 11.5-point underdog. Series: Purdue leads the series 103-83, including last meeting 84-60 in West Lafayette, Ind. on Feb. 25, 2018. TV: Big Ten Network. Online/Live video: BTNPlus Radio: 100.3 FM.

PROJECTED STARTERS

MINNESOTA GOPHERS (16-5, 6-4 in Big Ten)

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG 

G- Amir Coffey 6-8 Jr. 15.9

G- Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Sr. 10.3

G- Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 Fr. 10.4

F- Jordan Murphy 6-7 Sr. 15.1

C- Eric Curry 6-9 So. 5.2

Key reserves– Daniel Oturu, C, 6-10, Fr., 10.3 ppg; Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, So., 5.3 ppg; Michael Hurt, F, 6-7, Jr., 2.1 ppg; Brock Stull, G, 6-4, Sr., 1.8 ppg; Matz Stockman, C, 7-0, Sr., 2.9 ppg.

Coach: Richard Pitino 124-97 (7th season)  

Notable: The Gophers have won two straight Big Ten games for the first time since an eight-game winning streak during the 2016-17 season. The recent wins vs. Iowa and Illinois were at home. Now they will play six of their last 10 regular season games on the road, including three of the next four … The 81-47 loss to Purdue in Minneapolis last season was the largest margin of defeat of Pitino’s tenure. You could say that was revenge for when the Gophers gave the Big Ten champion Boilermakers their only conference home loss in 2016-17 behind Nate Mason's 31 points and 11 assists ... Minnesota's players are wearing warmup shirts to pay tribute to inspirational former Purdue fan Tyler Trent, who died of cancer last month.

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (15-6, 8-2) 

Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG

G- Nojel Eastern 6-6 So. 6.6

G-Carsen Edwards 6-1 Jr. 24.9

G-Ryan Cline 6-6 Sr. 13.0

F-Grady Eifert 6-6 Sr. 4.8

F-Trevion Williams 6-9 Fr. 4.8

Key reserves–Matt Haarms, C, 7-3, So., 7.6 ppg; Evan Boudreaux, F, 6-8, Jr., 6.4 ppg; Aaron Wheeler, F, 6-9, Fr., 5.1 ppg; Eric Hunter, G, 6-3, Fr., 3.0 ppg; Sasha Stefanovic, G, 6-4, Fr., 3.1 ppg

Coach: Matt Painter 335-160 (15th season)  

Notable: Purdue ranks second nationally in offensive efficiency, joining Duke and Villanova as the only three Division I college basketball teams to rank top-10 in offensive efficiency the last two seasons ... The Boilermakers are 6-1 and have won four straight games with freshman big man Trevion Williams in the main rotation. Williams, who is a load at 6-foot-9 and 280 pounds, is averaging 8.6 points and 5.9 rebounds in the last seven games, which included a season-best 16 points and 13 rebounds against Rutgers. 

Fuller’s prediction (my prediction record 14-7)Purdue 84, Gophers 73. The Boilermakers received a scare earlier in the week when the Nittany Lions took them into overtime in West Lafayette. Now Painter’s team won’t be surprised again, especially against a tough Gophers squad. Purdue’s also playing to be tied for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State at 9-2 in the league. This will be the biggest challenge for Minnesota’s defense so far this season. The Gophers will need a Nate Mason-like (see last win in West Lafayette) performance from Coffey or Murphy to pull off the upset on Super Bowl Sunday. This is the first of eight Quadrant 1 potential victories for the Gophers in their last 10 games (also Wisconsin, at Michigan State, at Nebraska, Indiana, Michigan, Purdue and at Maryland).