GOPHERS MEN'S HOOPS VS. NEBRASKA
FULLER'S FOUR THINGS TO WATCH:
Transfers of power
When the Gophers and Nebraska take the floor tonight at Williams Arena, it will be difficult to find players on both teams that started their college careers at their current school.
The Huskers lead the Big Ten with 11 newcomers, which includes their top seven scorers. Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg is getting 98% of his scoring and a combined 72 points per game from transfers this season.
Former West Virginia and junior college guard Teddy Allen leads the way as the Big Ten's fifth-leading scorer (17.2), but he also ranks first in the conference in steals (1.8). Allen's the fourth leading scorer among all newcomers on power conference teams this season.
Nebraska's starting lineup consists of Allen, Trey McGowens (Pittsburgh), Dalano Banton (Western Kentucky), Lat Mayen (junior college) and Derrick Walker (Tennessee). Off the bench, the Huskers look to Kobe Webster (Western Illinois) and Shamiel Stevenson (Pitt/Nevada) for big contributions.
Hoiberg's backcourt of 6-6 Allen, 6-4 McGowens and 6-9 Banton is one of the tallest and most athletic in the Big Ten. McGowens, who had a team-high 13 points and three steals in Saturday's 66-56 loss at Michigan State, was recruited by the Gophers out of Hargrave Military Academy (Va.) in high school. Banton ranks second on the team in scoring (12.1), but also leads the team in rebounds (6.8), assists (4.8) and blocks (1.0).
"They turned Michigan State over a lot (22 turnovers)," Pitino said. "Their length and versatility through their lineup is going to put you in a lot of binds. So, we've got to be ready."
Four of Minnesota's top five scores transferred in from another program, including starters Marcus Carr (Pittsburgh), Liam Robbins (Drake) and Brandon Johnson (Western Michigan). Both Gach (Utah) is now coming off the bench, but he started the first 16 games this season. The Gophers are getting a combined 38.7 points from their transfers this season (51% of their scoring).
In the second half of last week's 76-72 loss at Rutgers, Robbins put on display why he's a finalist for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award given to the nation's top center.
Robbins leads the Big Ten with 2.7 blocks per game. But the 7-foot junior scored eight of his 16 points during a three-minute stretch when the Gophers and Scarlet Knights were in a tight battle. Robbins hit free throws, showed off post moves and even nailed his 17th three-pointer of the season.
On back-to-back plays late in the second half, Carr passed to his big man after drawing double teams. Both times Robbins made the defense pay. His last shot was a three to give the Gophers a 68-66 lead with just under three minutes left.
Carr had a standout performance to that point with 18 points and seven assists, but he didn't connect with Robbins for the rest of the game and it didn't turn out in Minnesota's favor.
With less than a minute left, but Robbins screened for Carr and posted up Ron Harper Jr., who was five inches shorter. But Pitino ended up using a timeout after Carr didn't get the ball out of his hands on the double team. Pitino used another timeout seconds later when Carr was double teamed again, but he did have Robbins on the block.
Robbins only had one shot on a missed three-pointer the rest of the game. The Gophers went scoreless from the field in the final 2:22.
The Gophers clearly have to improve on looking inside, especially when they need an easy basket. But Pitino also said proper post entry passes were a work in progress as well.
"That was very poor," Pitino said. "That's go to get better. Sometimes it's fundamentally dribbling down versus where you're making the entry pass. So, we certainly worked on it."
The Gophers are worst in the Big Ten in rebounding margin (minus-3.0). They won the battle of the boards for three straight games vs. Michigan State, Wisconsin, and Ohio State. But that wasn't enough to overcome being beaten on the glass by Illinois (minus-18), Iowa twice (minus-17 and minus-6), Michigan twice (minus-9 and minus-4), Maryland (minus-8) and Purdue (minus-17) most recently.
Robbins, who had his second double-double Thursday with 10 rebounds, leads the Gophers (7.1) in rebounding this season. But this isn't like years past when Jordan Murphy (twice) and Daniel Oturu (last season) led the Big Ten in rebounding. They were good for 10-12 rebounds every night. Now it has to be more of a team effort.
The Gophers, who gave up 17 offensive rebounds vs. the Boilermakers in their last game, grabbed 16 rebounds at Rutgers. Their improvement on the glass (got within 35-33) contributed to a much closer game.
The Gophers currently rank No. 1 in the Big Ten overall (18.2) in free throws made per game overall, but that number has dropped to 14.5 free throws made in Big Ten games. This season is still a major upgrade from last year when they ranked 285thnationally with 11.5 foul shots made per game.
They're getting to the line nearly twice as often and converting 75.8 percent, ranked fourth overall in the Big Ten. Getting to the line is obviously a strength for Pitino's team. Getting outshot has been detrimental. They were 5-14 when outshot by their opponent on free throws last season. They're 2-6 in the same situation this season, which included in their last three losses.
Carr shoots 76% from the foul line, but he's not getting as much scoring from the charity stripe in the Big Ten. He averaged over eight free throws made per game earlier in the season, but that's now down to 4.1 per game in 11 conference games.
In his last home game, Carr scored 25 points, but he converted just 6 of 12 at the line in the 63-49 loss against Maryland. In the next game, Carr was held to six points in a loss at Purdue, but he also was just 2-for-2 on free throws. He was 3-for-4 at the foul line at Rutgers. Carr attacking the basket and getting to the foul line more often is critical to Minnesota's offense.
Time:7 p.m. CT, Monday.Where:Williams Arena.Line:Minnesota 10.5-point favorite.Series:Minnesota leads the series 53-20, including 107-75 win at home on March 8, 2020.TV: FS1.Online/Live video: FoxSports.Radio:100.3 KFAN.
MINNESOTA GOPHERS(11-7, 4-7)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Marcus Carr 6-2 195 Jr.19.9
G – Gabe Kalscheur 6-4 200 Jr. 8.9
G – Tre' Williams 6-5 195 So. 3.4
F – Brandon Johnson 6-8 220 Sr. 8.3
C – Liam Robbins 7-0 235 Jr. 13.6
Key reserves– Both Gach, G, 6-6, Jr., 8.9 ppg; Eric Curry, F-C, 6-9, Sr., 3.8 ppg; Jamal Mashburn Jr., G, 6-2, Fr., 5.4 ppg; Isaiah Ihnen, F, 6-9, So., 2.1 ppg.
Coach:Richard Pitino 156-129 (9th season overall)
Notable: Western Michigan grad transfer Brandon Johnson had a season-high 26 points on 8-for-9 shooting from three in the overtime win vs. Iowa on Christmas Day. The Gophers were 17-for-43 from three, setting a team record for attempts from beyond the arc. Johnson's three-point percentage in that game was a team record and he tied the single-game record for threes made. The Chicago native is shooting 33% from three this season, but he hasn't been able to come close to duplicating that one record-setting performance. He shot 2-for-11 on threes in the seven games before Iowa. Johnson's shot 1-for-14 from long distance since Dec. 25. The Gophers shot 27-for-68 (39.7%) from three in back-to-back wins vs. St. Louis and Iowa, but they have shot 29.9% from deep this season, last in the Big Ten and 303rd nationally ... Sophomore Tre' Williams has started the last two games in the backcourt for the Gophers, which included eight points and five rebounds in last week's loss at Purdue.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (4-9, 0-6)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Trey McGowens 6-4 191 So. 11.5
G – Teddy Allen 6-6 223 Jr. 17.2
G – Dalano Banton 6-9 204 So. 12.1
F – Lat Mayen 6-9 205 Jr. 7.5
C – Derrick Walker 6-8 230 Jr. 7.5
Key reserves– Yvan Ouedraogo, C, 6-9, So., 5.0 ppg; Kobe Webster, G, 6-0, Sr., 7.5 ppg; Shamiel Stevenson, G, 6-6, Jr., 5.3 ppg; Thorir Thorbjarnarson, G, 6-6, Sr., 3.2 ppg; Trevor Lakes, F, 6-7, Sr., 4.0 ppg.
Coach: Fred Hoiberg 126-90 (7th season)
Notable:The Huskers, who returned from a COVID-19 pause Saturday in the road loss to the Spartans, have dropped 23 straight Big Ten games since a win vs. Iowa on Jan. 7, 2020. They suffered 16 consecutive losses to finish the 2019-20 season.
Fuller's score prediction (Picks record 12-6):Gophers 85, Nebraska 75.