Despite all the ups and downs of the season thus far, Maryland doesn’t have to win anymore to prove itself. Minnesota, on the other hand, will be fighting for its tournament life Friday night.
As the Terps honor Ivan Bender and Andrew Terrell on senior night, they welcome a Golden Gophers team looking for another signature win.
Ahead of the final regular season matchup, we reached out to Nick Jungheim of the Minnesota Daily to get the inside scoop on Minnesota. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.
Anthony Cowan went for a season-high 27 points in the Terps’ trip to Minnesota earlier this year. What will the Golden Gophers’ plan be to slow him down?
Minnesota will presumably have their best perimeter defender, freshman Gabe Kalscheur, match up against Cowan as he did in the last game. In that meeting Kalscheur battled foul trouble and was limited to just 24 minutes. Simply put, the Gophers need Kalscheur out there to defend Cowan. On Tuesday Kalscheur, despite again battling foul trouble, was integral to slowing down the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Carsen Edwards, in Minnesota’s upset of Purdue.
While Edwards scored 22 points, he shot just 7-for-31 from the field. Like Cowan, Edwards is an undersized guard, so when Kalscheur goes to the bench, look for the Gophers to utilize the length of 6-foot 8-inch Amir Coffey to defend Cowan, which is what Minnesota did on Tuesday.
Which personnel matchup between Minnesota and Maryland excites you the most?
Both teams feature a duo of talented forwards, Jordan Murphy and Daniel Oturu for Minnesota, Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith for Maryland. Points in the paint and rebounding should go a long way in determining the winner of the game. The Gophers, however, have a lack of depth behind their starters in the front court, as redshirt sophomore Eric Curry was recently lost for the season due to a foot injury.
Matz Stockman only played three minutes in the last meeting with Maryland, but played 24 against Purdue on Tuesday, performing well off the bench. Still, if the one-two punch of Fernando and Smith can get Murphy and Oturu in foul trouble, Minnesota won’t have enough personnel to compete down-low.
Shooting woes came back to hurt Minnesota in the Jan. 8 matchup, when the team shot 39 percent from the foul line. How much has the charity strike been an issue for Minnesota this season?
Especially in close games, free throw shooting is a big concern for Minnesota. Not a single player shoots 78 percent from the line. In the closing minute against Purdue, the only 70-percent foul shooter the Gophers had available was Coffey (72 percent). While 39 percent is low even by their standards, not having a foul shooter they can rely on down the stretch has cost the Gophers in the final minute multiple times this year.
Minnesota is 19-11 overall and 9-10 in a deep Big Ten conference. How much do you think a win at Maryland would help the Golden Gophers’ tournament resume? How many wins in the Big Ten tournament would make you feel confident?
If Minnesota can get a victory in College Park, they should be a lock for the tournament. In his postgame comments on Tuesday, head coach Richard Pitino was adamant in his belief that the win against Purdue was enough to secure the team a tournament bid. Regardless of the result on Friday, a single win in the Big Ten tournament should clinch the Gophers a spot in the NCAA tournament if they haven’t already.
Finish this sentence. Minnesota wins if…
They get plenty of lucky breaks. Also, Coffey has to continue to play aggressively like he has in the last two games when he’s scored 31 and 32 points, respectively. Kalscheur needs to lock down Cowan and get hot from beyond the arc. Even then, coming off the emotional hangover of Tuesday, Minnesota should have its hands full in a hostile environment.
Maryland wins if…
Smith and Fernando outscore and out-rebound Murphy and Oturu. Rebounding, avoiding turnovers and keeping the Gophers from playing in transition should suffice.