The Gophers picked up their second win in as many games on Tuesday night, defeating the Santa Clara Broncos in the Vancouver Showcase. While the final score indicated a definitive 80-66 final score, the victory was anything but assured until the final minutes when Minnesota took advantage of a meltdown by Broncos head coach Herb Sendek, who accrued three technical fouls in one huge blowup.
For the Gophers, it was a good time to be facing a middling West Coast Conference team, as their size and physicality made up for a nightmarish night on offense. And if it wasn’t for Gabe Kalscheur’s explosion from behind the arc (25 points and seven three-pointers), we might be singing a different tune today.
Instead, Minnesota heads into the Vancouver Showcase finale and a date with the Washington Huskies who will provide the stiffest competition yet on the young season.
Who are the Gophers playing?
Washington Huskies (4-1)
What time are they playing?
Wednesday, Nov. 21 @ 5:30 p.m. CT
Where are they playing?
Vancouver Convention Centre
Can I watch the game on TV?
Can I listen to the game on the radio?
Yes, KTLK 103.5 FM or 1130 AM.
Tell me more about the opponent.
Washington is 4-1 on the year with their lone loss coming in a true road game against a top-10 Auburn squad. However, they had a ton of trouble with San Diego at home and barely got by Texas A&M in their most recent game. Long story short, even though the Huskies were a preseason Top 25 team, they haven’t quite been world beaters this year.
The Huskies come into the year returning all five starters from a team that that won 21 games last year and made it to the second round of the NIT. So, the pieces are there if they want to make a giant leap. Instead, they’ve really only gotten major production from Jaylen Nowell (19.4 ppg) and Noah Dickerson (16.2 ppg and 8.2 rpg). Nowell already has a 32-point game this season, while Dickerson stuffed the stat sheet last night against A&M with a 24-point, 17-rebound performance.
One of the biggest warts so far this season, and one that was certainly an issue last year, is giving up offensive rebounds. The Huskies currently rank 292 in KenPom on giving up offensive rebounds, which could be a huge opportunity for the Gophers who grabbed 18 o-boards against Santa Clara.
What to Watch For
Can the Gophers improve their conversion rate?
The offensive production last night outside of Kalscheur was borderline embarrassing, but it wasn’t like Minnesota wasn’t getting opportunities to score. They were. They just simply weren’t putting the ball in the hoop. Jordan Murphy missed several easy putbacks, while Amir Coffey couldn’t buy a bucket, even when driving to the hoop. Ditto for Dupree McBrayer, who cleaned it up in the second half, but was 0-8 from the field in the first.
If the Gophers can convert on their chances, they can play with anyone. But if their core of Murphy, Coffey and McBrayer can’t execute, it’s up to one of the freshman to shoulder the load.
Stopping Jaylen Nowell
The offense runs through Nowell, who has scored at least 14 points in every game so far. The reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week and All-Freshman Team selection a year ago, he’s shooting a ridiculous 59% from the field this year, including 56% from deep. If the Gopher defense can limit his impact, no one else other than Dickerson has really show that they can step up.
It’s essentially a toss-up, but KenPom likes the Gophers in this one by a point, giving them a 74-73 nod. I think Minnesota cleans up its offensive output and takes down the Huskies 70-65.