Despite holding a 22-point lead at the break en route to a 35-point victory its last time out, Minnesota held its collective breath for most of the second half and in the hours that followed awaiting an injury update on Nate Mason. With the status of their high-scoring senior guard still unclear one week later, the Golden Gophers hit the court for their final non-conference game on Saturday when they host Harvard.
An All-Big Ten first-team selection last season, Mason buried five 3-pointers during a 17-point first half last weekend against Florida Atlantic, only to roll his left ankle so severely 3 1/2 minutes into the second half that he couldn’t put any weight on the leg. “I don’t anticipate him missing a whole lot, so (we) dodged a bullet there. … It was really just kind of like the back part of his ankle. Fortunately, it’s nothing too serious,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. The Gophers didn’t need any more contributions from their second-leading scorer as it turned out, holding the Owls to 34 percent from the field in a 95-60 rout. The Crimson have had a full week off to stew over their recent offensive struggles, failing to reach 50 points for the second time in three games following a 58-48 setback at George Washington.
TV: 2 p.m. ET, Big Ten Network
ABOUT HARVARD (5-7): Bryce Aiken (team-high 17.6 points) ranks fifth in the Ivy League in scoring, but the sophomore guard has been sidelined with an unspecified injury over the last two contests - a stretch during which the starters have accounted for 11 baskets and 25 total points. Second-leading scorer Seth Towns (12.6) has seen his production and playing time vary wildly since missing a Nov. 24 win against Saint Joseph’s; he averaged 15.8 points in 27.8 minutes in five games prior to that game and 10 points in 19.3 minutes over six outings since the absence. Chris Lewis (11.9) was one of only two Crimson to convert at least half of his field-goal attempts last weekend, as Harvard shot a season-low 28.1 percent from the field against the Colonials.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (11-3): In addition to the possible absence of Mason on Saturday, the Gophers have been without fellow starting guard Dupree McBrayer (8.2 points) in each of the last two games due to a lower left leg injury. If either one or both guards are forced to sit out Saturday, more of the offensive load figures to fall on sophomore swingman Amir Coffey (14.1), who has tallied at least 10 points in each of his last nine outings and amassed 15 assists over his last two. Jordan Murphy continues to lead the Big Ten in scoring (19.6) and paces Division I in rebounding (12.6) as well as double-doubles (14) after contributing 14 points and 11 boards in only 22 minutes against the Owls.
1. Murphy is one double-double shy of becoming one of 30 players in Division I history to record a double-double streak of at least 15 games.
2. The Crimson rank 328th in Division I in scoring offense (65.8).
3. Despite being in only his second season with the Gophers, C Reggie Lynch ranks third in school history with 169 blocks. At his current rate (Big Ten-best 3.9 per game), he will need 17 games to pass Kevin McHale for first place.
PREDICTION: Minnesota 74, Harvard 64