The mental and physical rest seemed to do Minnesota some good, and the Golden Gophers will try to continue to move forward with a third straight victory when they host Florida Atlantic on Saturday afternoon. Minnesota stumbled after a 7-0 start, barely winning two of its next five, but nine days off was just what the doctor ordered as the Golden Gophers improved defensively in a 77-63 win over Oral Roberts on Thursday.
“We can’t think we’re just going to outscore all these teams,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told reporters. “I wrote on the board: ‘What is our identity?’ It was very clear what our identity was last year. We don’t have one right now. We can’t be the team that thinks we can put up 90 points on teams. We’ve got to be able to defend.” The Golden Gophers held Oral Roberts to 39.4 percent from the field and 3-of-16 from 3-point range while forcing 14 turnovers. “Practices during the break were really helpful in focusing and keying in on playing well on defense,” Minnesota’s junior forward Jordan Murphy told reporters after notching his 13th straight double-double and going over 1,000 points in his career Thursday. Florida Atlantic has lost the last two games, including a 90-54 drubbing from Texas Tech on Tuesday, and posted three of its wins against non-Division I teams.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT FLORIDA ATLANTIC (6-5): The Owls were within seven points of Texas Tech at halftime but allowed 50 in the second half and finished with 19 turnovers along with just two steals. Senior guard Justin Massey led the way Tuesday with 17 points off the bench and leads a balanced offense at 14.1 points per game while 7-foot senior center Ronald Delph averages 13.5 points and a team-high 9.4 rebounds. Senior guard Gerdarius Troutman boasts 29 makes from 3-point range to top the team and scores 13.3 points per game, although he was 2-for-11 against Texas Tech.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (10-3): Murphy is averaging 20 points and leads the nation in rebounding (12.8) through Thursday’s action, shooting 56.5 percent from the field and adding 1.5 blocks per contest. The Golden Gophers also have a productive backcourt as senior Nate Mason averages 15.4 points and a team-best 4.4 assists while sophomore Amir Coffey contributes 14.4 points. Sophomore forward Michael Hurt made his first career start Thursday, registering 10 points in 26 minutes, and freshman guard Isaiah Washington scored in double figures for the fourth time.
1. Minnesota senior C Reggie Lynch is averaging 10.2 points and 7.9 rebounds while sitting first in the Big Ten in blocks per game (4.2).
2. Florida Atlantic junior G Anthony Adger was held to two points against Texas Tech, but leads the team with three assists per contest.
3. Minnesota junior G Dupree McBrayer (right leg), who averages 8.2 points, missed Thursday’s game and is considered day-to-day.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 88, Florida Atlantic 64