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Men’s basketball preview: Gophers host Purdue with prime opportunity at home

Minnesota hosts #24 Boilermakers with chance for revenge

NCAA Basketball: Northwestern at Purdue Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports

The Gophers stemmed the bleeding on Monday with a much-needed home victory over lowly Nebraska. And while it was a convincing 18-point win, the game in its entirety left fans with a sour taste in our mouths.

Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. The Gophers committed 24 fouls, shot just 30% in the second half and scratched across just 34 points in the second period. And, once again, they were putrid from long-range despite attempting an asinine 36 shots from deep (and making 8). Nebraska did their own part by committing 18 turnovers and basically being unable to score, but Minnesota probably should have won the game by 30 points.

No one is mistaking a blowout of Nebraska for a season turnaround; not with how that game looked. But a conference win is a conference win, and strange things can happen when you scratch across a victory by playing poorly.

The problem is that the Gophers have suffered from some pretty consistent offensive woes lately, and they don’t appear to be getting better. The most curious and frustrating thing is this continual barrage of threes from an objectively bad three-point shooting team. This team has played it’s best when it attacks the rim (Carr, Kalscheur and Gach) and gets the ball into the hands of Liam Robbins and Brandon Johnson. They have been allergic to those things lately.

The going gets much tougher on Thursday with Purdue, who is trending in the right direction and currently ranked #24 in the AP Top 25. It’s the second of three games this week, so hopefully it means more consistency for Minnesota.

Essentials:

Opponent:

Purdue Boilermakers (13-7, 8-5)

Date and Time:

Thursday, Feb. 11 @ 4 p.m. CT

Location:

Williams Arena

TV:

ESPN2

Radio:

KTLK 100.3-FM

Tell me more about the opponent.

The Boilers dusted Minnesota in the first matchup just a couple weeks ago, brutally erasing a 14-point deficit to win by 19 — a 33-point turnaround. Yuck.

In that game Brandon Newman had by far his best game of the season with 29 points, which he promptly followed up with three points against Maryland the game after.

Purdue put the Gophers on their heels in the second half, cutting off passing lanes and frustrating Marcus Carr, but they also shot a patently ridiculous 60% from the field in the second half and went 8-10 from deep. I mean, come on.

Trevion Williams is still a beast and is a 20-10 threat on any given night. Second-leading scorer Sasha Stefanovic is back after missing a few games with COVID. He got his feet wet against Northwestern with just 14 minutes, so it’s unclear how much floor time he’ll see in this one as he gets back up to full speed.

Predictions

I expect Minnesota to be better prepared for this second dance with the Boilers, but it’s becoming clear that the only way they win is if they get away from relying on three-point shots and focus on attacking the rim and working the ball in through the posts. It’s frustratingly obvious what they need to both do and stop doing.

I’ll take the Gophers in a squeaker, 75-72.