Thursday, January 5, 2017
Mason, Lynch look to guide Gophers past Northwestern
The Minnesota Gophers mens basketball team defeated a 15th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers team on New Year’s Day on the Boilers’ home court. Next up, the Gophers face Northwestern on its home floor tonight in Evanston, Illinois. Following its Big Ten-opening loss at home, Minnesota hopes to rebound with consecutive road wins. But this task most definitely will not be simple…
While the Gophers (13-2, 1-1 conference) have reason to be confident, Northwestern (12-3, 1-1) has plans to win its first Big Ten home contest and improve its season record at Welsh-Ryan Arena to a perfect 10-0. But while the Wildcats hope to enjoy its home court advantage, the team lacks two particular weapons its road foes have: juniors Nate Mason and Reggie Lynch.
Minnesota will rely on freshman Amir Coffey and sophomores Jordan Murphy and Dupree McBrayer in order for its team to enjoy success this season. But the veteran leadership of Mason and impressive front court play from Lynch were on full display at Purdue - and consequently will be counted on tonight as well.
While it’s unlikely Mason can replicate his masterful performance against the Boliermakers – a game in which he scored a career-high 31 points and dished out a team-high 11 assists – the junior guard’s court vision and leadership are virtues his team leans upon.
As for Lynch, the player head coach Rick Pitino has said is the best center in the Big Ten, Minnesota needs his durability under the hoop. The 6-foot-10-inch Illinois State transfer recorded 10 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks against Purdue. However, Lynch played only 26 minutes before fouling out in overtime.
Mason, Lynch and the Gophers face the Wildcats this evening at 8:00 p.m. (Central Time).
Northwestern is led by junior guard Scottie Lindsey and sophomore forward Vic Law. Lindsey enters tonight’s contest as the Wildcats’ leading scorer, averaging 15.7 points per game. Law, meanwhile, ranks second on his team in both points (13.7 per game) and rebounds (5.9).
Junior guard Bryant McIntosh leads Northwestern in assists – dishing out 5.6 per contest.