Indiana at GOPHERS
Three things to watch:
DOUBLE-DOUBLE STREAK – Jordan Murphy has streak of 16 straight games with a double-double, which is the longest to start a Division I basketball season since former Wake Forest and San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan had 17 straight in 1996-97. Murphy grew up idolizing Duncan living in the San Antonio area. His mother, Ceila, was a huge Duncan fan since they both were raised in the Virgin Islands. “Tim Duncan is one of my idols, one of my favorite players all-time,” Murphy said. “Me being mentioned in the same breath as him is a blessing. As long as we get the W, I’m fine with it.” Murphy’s 17 points and 17 rebounds in Wednesday’s win against Illinois improved his rebounding average to 12.9 per game, which leads the Big Ten and ranks second nationally. He’s no longer the Big Ten scoring leader (his 19.0 ppg dropped slightly behind Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop’s 19.4), but you could see Murphy’s scoring numbers jump with the suspension of center Reggie Lynch. Murphy’s season-highs as a junior have been 35 points against USC Upstate and 18 rebounds against Drake.
BAKARY’S TIME – Lynch is appealing the Thursday ruling by a U panel that he be suspended and banned from school until 2020 after finding him responsible for an alleged sexual assault in 2016. But the Gophers have to consider he could be gone for the rest of the season. That means Bakary Konate is your starting center. Remember when Konate was the Gophers man in the middle before Lynch? That was two years ago when the 6-foot-11 Mali native averaged 4.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in 21.7 minutes during the 2015-16 season. Konate was actually making big strides at the end of the season despite an 8-23 season. He averaged 7.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in his last three games, including a career-high 14 rebounds in a loss against Wisconsin. Konate isn’t the same offensive and defensive presence as Lynch. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Lynch had 11 points, 12 rebounds and seven blocks in what could end up being his last game Wednesday against Illinois. It was the second time this season he nearly notched the program’s first triple-double since 1976.
GETTING DEFENSIVE – The Gophers have held their last five opponents to 35 percent shooting from the field combined, which has been a huge reason for their five-game winning streak. But can they continue to play defense at the same level without Lynch, last season’s Big Ten defensive player of the year? Lynch stayed out of foul trouble this season (no foul outs, compared to eight last season) often erasing the mistakes of Minnesota’s perimeter when it allowed dribble penetration. Now that safety net in the paint is gone – possibly for good. Richard Pitino and his staff might need to make changes (more zone?) to the way the Gophers play defensively to make up for the absence of a rim protector inside.
Time: 4:15 p.m. CT, Saturday. Where: Williams Arena. Line: Minnesota by 7 points. Series: Minnesota leads 66-93. Last meeting 75-74 Minnesota win against Indiana in Minneapolis on Feb. 17, 2017. TV: ESPN2 Online/Live video: ESPNWatch Radio: 100.3 FM and 1130 AM
MINNESOTA (13-3, 2-1)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Nate Mason 6-2 Sr. 15.6
G – Dupree McBrayer 6-5 Jr. 9.0
F – Michael Hurt 6-7 So. 3.1
F – Jordan Murphy 6-7 Jr. 19.0
C – Bakary Konate 6-11 Sr. 1.2
Key reserves– Isaiah Washington, G, 6-1, Fr., 7.5 ppg; Davonte Fitzgerald, F, 6-8, Jr., 2.8 ppg; Jamir Harris, G, 6-1, Fr., 3.4 ppg; Gaston Diedhiou, F/C, 6-10, Sr., 2.8 ppg.
Coach: Richard Pitino 106-78 (6th season)
Notable: Gophers senior guard Nate Mason is averaging 17.6 points and 4.2 assists in his last nine games. Mason missed his first game since 2016 with a left ankle injury, but returned to have a team-high 17 points and six assists Wednesday against Illinois … The Gophers have lost three of their last four meetings with the Hoosiers, including three in a row before a 75-74 win on a last-second shot by Akeem Springs last year.
INDIANA (8-7, 1-2)
Pos.-Player Ht. Yr. PPG
G – Josh Newkirk 6-1 Sr. 8.4
G – Robert Johnson 6-3 Sr. 12.7
G – Zach McRoberts 6-6 Jr. 2.8
F – Juwan Morgan 6-7 Jr. 15.4
F – Collin Hartman 6-7 Sr. 6.6
Key reserves– Devonte Green, G, 6-3, So., 7.5 ppg; Al Durham, G, 6-4, Fr., 5.9 ppg; Justin Smith, F, 6-6, Fr., 3.9 ppg; Freddie McSwain Jr., F, 6-6, Sr., 3.1 ppg.
Coach: Archie Miller 147-70 (7th season)
Notable: The Hoosiers are expected to be without their starting center De’Ron Davis, who suffered a lower-leg injury in practice. Davis, a 6-10 junior, averaged 9.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game in 15 starts this season … In four career games against Minnesota, Indiana senior Robert Johnson is averaging only 6.0 points on 26.9 percent shooting (6-for-21 from three-point range) and has 13 turnovers in 26.3 minutes.
Fuller’s prediction (14-2 picks record): Gophers 73, Indiana 70. The loss of Amir Coffey to a shoulder injury makes this Minnesota team have even less room for error, especially after Lynch's suspension. The Gophers were 10-0 when Coffey had three assists or more, which included Wednesday's win against Illinois. Without Coffey, the Gophers need another playmaker who can create for himself and others. Will that be freshman Isaiah Washington? So far, Washington has shown he mostly has an interest in looking for his own shot. But the New York native has the talent to do both. This would be the time to show it. A bigger role for Michael Hurt would give Pitino a player, like Coffey, who moves the ball and is unselfish. Hurt might also add a three-point shooting threat that is lost without Coffey. Not having Lynch indefinitely and Coffey could end up keeping the Gophers out of the postseason, but they can at least prove Saturday that they can beat opponents like a rebuilding Indiana at home.