Reggie Lynch’s foul trouble issues have plagued him his entire college career, but they’ve become a major problem in Big Ten Conference play this season.
The 6-foot-10 junior is a game-changer when he’s on the floor, but he has fouled out in four of five Big Ten games this season for the Gophers (15-3, 3-2), who are trying to bounce back Saturday at Penn State (10-7, 2-2) in State College, Pa.
Lynch, who averages 8.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and a conference-best 3.1 blocks, fouled out of Wednesday's 65-47 loss at Michigan State. He finished with a season-low two points, three rebounds and three turnovers in 17 minutes.
The Edina native is only playing 20.6 minutes per game this season. Pitino wants that number to be between 27-28 minutes a night.“I’m trying to look at it is there something we can do better,” Pitino said Friday. “You’ve got to protect Reggie. He’s got to be on the court. When he’s in the game, he gives us that low-post threat offensively and defensively."
But in Big Ten games, Lynch leads all players with 8.9 fouls committed per 40 minutes, according to advanced stats guru Ken Pomeroy’s site. That’s three fouls more than the next guy, Ohio State’s Trevor Thompson at 6.81.
"We’ve looked at all the fouls," Pitino said. "Is it technique? Sometimes it’s just a matter of – just let it go. As much as we don’t want to give up a basket, be smart.”
Pitino blames bad perimeter defense as a big reason why Lynch gets into too many potential fouling situations. Minnesota’s guards might not be that afraid to let an opponent blow by them with one of the nation’s best rim protectors lurking inside.
Lynch, who weighs 260 pounds, picks up some fouls because he’s just flat out bigger than almost everyone. Opposing players bounce off his large frame on screens, box outs or post ups. They have also a tendency to flop and sell calls to refs.
Pitino believes officials might be more inclined this season to blow their whistles when big men are too physical inside. Lynch picked up two quick fouls in less than two minutes to start the second half of Wednesday's loss to the Spartans.
“I think it’s obvious for certain bigs that (officials) are looking for things,” Pitino said. “It’s because they are big guys maybe? I don’t know.”
Lynch fouled out with the Gophers trailing 56-35 with 6:09 left in the game at Michigan State.
“I thought the Michigan State game, I’m not sure all of those were fouls,” Pitino said. “Not to criticize the refs. They could’ve gone either way. They’re trying to clean up post play. That was a big point of emphasis with the refs. To me, if we would do a better job of guarding the ball, it wouldn’t have to get to that.”
Surprisingly, Lynch never fouled out of a game with the Gophers until Big Ten play this season. He fouled out of 10 games in his last season at Illinois State in 2014-15, including his final game with the Redbirds in an NIT loss against Old Dominion.
If you think fouling out in four of five games is bad, Lynch got sent to the bench for good with his fifth foul in seven of 10 games as a freshman in 2013-14, including four straight games. Illinois State went 2-5 during that stretch.