Iowa at GOPHERS
Three things to watch:
SENIOR FAREWELL – Richard Pitino’s first full recruiting class with the Gophers four years ago consisted of guards Nate Mason and Carlos Morris, forwards Josh Martin and Gaston Diedhiou and center Bakary Konate. The five-player class wasn’t highly rated at 64th nationally and ninth in the Big Ten by 247Sports.com. Martin, an explosive-dunking 6-foot-8 forward from Washington, lasted only seven games and averaged just 1.3 points and 1.2 rebounds before transferring to Cal Poly. Morris, a 6-5 junior college transfer from Florida, was kicked off the team in his second season in 2015-16. Mason, Diedhiou and Konate are the last remaining players from that 2014 class. Konate, a 6-11 Mali native, has started 35 games in his career, but he averaged just 2.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 114 games. Diedhiou, a 6-10 Senegal native, has been a rarely-used reserve averaging just 6.1 minutes in 55 career games. The only long-term impact player from Pitino’s first full class has been Mason, who will go down as one of the Gophers’ all-time great guards. The 6-2 two-time captain from Georgia enters Wednesday’s game with 1,668 career points, which ranks seventh in team history. Mason has a chance to crack the program’s top-five career scoring list by the end of the year. He also ranks second in career assists with 501. Not bad for an undersized, under-the-radar three-star prospect who played for three different high schools in four years. The Gophers are 2-2 on Senior Day under Pitino, including last year’s 88-73 win against Nebraska in Akeem Springs’ final home game.
MURPHY HATES IOWA – Minnesota turned out to be one the Big Ten’s worst teams this year, but it still has arguably the best power forward in the league. Jordan Murphy’s 16 points and 11 rebounds in Monday’s loss at Wisconsin gave him the team’s single-season double-double record, surpassing Mychal Thompson’s 21 double-doubles from 1975-76. With two regular season games left, the 6-7, 250-pound junior is almost a lock to become the first Gopher player to lead the conference in rebounding since Trevor Mbakwe did it in 2013 (Mbakwe also did it in 2011). If the season ended Wednesday, Murphy’s 11.4 rebounds per game would be the highest in the program since Thompson’s 12.5 rpg in 1976. In a 94-80 loss Jan. 30 at Iowa, Murphy had 21 points and 17 rebounds. Murphy is averaging 19 points and 14 rebounds in three career games against the Hawkeyes, which includes last year’s monster 25-point, 19-rebound performance in a 101-89 double-overtime win at the Barn.
THREE-POINT DEFENSE – During the Gophers’ nine-game losing streak, they have allowed their opponents to shoot a staggering 40.4 percent from three-point range (80-for-198). It actually wasn’t as bad as that number seems in each loss. Four opponents really skewed that percentage by hitting double-figure three-pointers against Minnesota. Michigan State and Wisconsin combined to shoot 26-for-51(50.9 percent) against the Gophers in the last two games. The Hawkeyes won their last meeting with Minnesota by knocking down 12-for-25 shots from beyond the arc, including Jordan Bohannon and Isaiah Moss combining for 36 points on 8-for-14 from the three-point line on Jan. 30. Pitino’s team ranks 12th in the Big Ten in three-point shooting defense (37.8 percent) in league play. Meanwhile, Iowa is third in the Big Ten in three-point shooting percentage (38.3 percent). Bohannon leads all conference players with 115 threes in 16 league games.
Time: 8 p.m. CT, Wednesday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota by 1.5. Series: Minnesota leads 99-88. Last meeting Gophers lost 94-80 at Iowa on Jan. 30, 2018. TV: Big Ten Network Online/Live video: BTN Plus Radio: 100.3 FM and 1130 AM
MINNESOTA (14-15, 3-13)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Nate Mason 6-2 Sr. 16.2
G – Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Jr. 9.5
F – Michael Hurt 6-7 So. 3.3
F – Jordan Murphy 6-7 Jr. 17.3
C – Bakary Konate 6-11 Sr. 1.7
Reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, Fr., 8.2 ppg; Jamir Harris, G, 6-2, Fr., 4.2 ppg; Davonte Fitzgerald, F, 6-8, Jr., 3.5 ppg; Gaston Diedhiou, F/C, 6-10, Sr., 1.8 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 107-90 (6th season)
Notable: The Gophers are shooting 40.2 percent (315-for-783) from the field and 34.7 percent from three-point range (91-for-262) in the 13 games without center Reggie Lynch, who is no longer on the team after dropping his appeal on a suspension for an alleged sexual assualt incident ... Junior Dupree McBrayer is a game-time decision Wednesday with a lower left leg injury. McBrayer returned Monday against Wisconsin after missing two games. But he has scored just 21 points combined on 7-for-32 shooting from the field and 4-for-16 from the three-point line in his last four games … Sophomore Michael Hurt was told by Pitino to be aggressive before Monday’s game at Wisconsin. The former Rochester John Marshall star responded with season-highs with 15 points and eight rebounds in 43 minutes. Hurt was nearly perfect with 4-for-5 shooting from the field and 5-for-5 from the foul line.
IOWA (12-17, 3-13)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Jordan Bohannon 6-0 So. 13.2
G – Isaiah Moss 6-5 So. 10.6
F – Jack Nunge 6-11 Fr. 6.1
F – Tyler Cook 6-9 So. 15.7
C – Luke Garza 6-11 Fr. 11.5
Coach: Fran McCaffery 149-118 (21st season)
Notable: The Hawkeyes 14-point win over Minnesota on Jan. 30 was Fran McCaffery’s 400th career victory as a head coach. Tyler Cook has recorded double-doubles in five of Iowa’s last 11 games, including 28 points and 10 rebounds in an 84-82 loss against Indiana at home Saturday. Cook had 17 points and 10 rebounds in the earlier win against the Gophers this season … Bohannon has made 32 consecutive free throws this season dating back to Jan. 4. Chris Street is the program record holder with 34 straight foul shots made back in 1993 ... Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Rutgers are locks to play on the first day of the Big Ten tournament in New York next Wednesday.
Fuller’s prediction (23-6 picks record): Iowa 83, Gophers 75. The Gophers will give it their best shot to pull out a victory for their seniors Wednesday night, but they will run out of gas in the end. Blame the one-day prep after losing 73-63 in overtime to Wisconsin on Monday in Madison. The fact that it was an 8 p.m. game that went into an extra period was taxing physically for Minnesota’s players. But the way it ended was tough to overcome emotionally with Mason not getting a foul call on a trip by Wisconsin’s Brad Davison just before time expired in regulation. Not only did Mason not get a chance to go to the foul line on an intentional tripping, but he also hurt his right leg on the play. That’s just the way this season has gone for Pitino and company. Unless Mason and Murphy have 30-point games in them Wednesday, the Gophers won’t be able to score enough to outlast the Hawkeyes to avoid their 10th straight defeat.