Minnesota will be trying to defeat a ranked team on the road while unranked for the first time since they defeated the #19 ranked Michigan State Spartans 81-75 on Jan. 19, 1985, as they head to East Lansing to take on the 2007-08 Spartans (12-1), currently ranked #7, on Jan. 5 at the Breslin Center. Overall, Minnesota has not beaten a ranked foe on the road since Feb. 12, 1994 when the Gophers beat #21 Wisconsin 109-78 in Madison.
The Gophers hold a 53-44 edge in the all-time series, dating back to a 46-32 victory in 1943. Sparty has had the Gophers number recently, however, as they have defeated Minnesota in nine of the last 12 contests.
MSU is led by sophomore forward Raymar Morgan, who is averging 17.4 ppg (third in the conference) and 7.1 rbg (eighth in conference) and senior guard Drew Neitzel, the 2007-08 Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year pick. He is averaging 14.5 points (ninth) and 4.6 assists (fourth) per game.
Duel in the Desert Recap
The Gophers closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule with a 2-1 record in the Duel in the Desert played at the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV in Las Vegas, Nev. Minnesota opened play with an astounding 77-32 victory over Nicholls State. The 45-point victory is the largest since a 116-48 victory over Rider on January 3, 1990. Game two ended as an 83-66 Gopher victory over Kennesaw State with game three, the championship game, ending in a 64-81 loss to UNLV.
The Gophers were led by senior tri-captain Dan Coleman, who finished with averages of 16.0 points and 6.0 rebounds in the three games. Freshman Blake Hoffarber chipped in with 12.0 ppg while another senior tri-captain, Lawrence McKenzie, finished with averages of 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds. Coleman and McKenzie were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Coleman on the Charts
Senior Dan Coleman became just the 34th player in school history to record 1,000 career points, thanks to a 22-point effort in the Gophers 91-74 victory over Colorado State on Dec. 8. Colemanhas added 100 points since and currently sits in 24th place on the career points list with 1,100. Mychal Thompson (1974-78) sits atop the list with 1,992 career points.
Also, Coleman is just 12 rebounds shy of 500 boards in his career. He will become just the 17th Gopher player with 1,000 points and 500 boards in a career. Michael Bauer was the last Gopher to join the club, reaching the milestone in 2004. Coleman also has 89 career blocks, just four shy of Minnesota’s top-10.
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in each of the team’s 12 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 376-180 bench scoring edge on its foes including a 30-1 advantage over Iowa State on Nov. 20, a 27-4 advantage over UC Riverside on Dec. 1, a 41-7 edge over North Dakota State on Dec. 3, a 44-27 margin against Colorado State, a 26-13 edge on Dec. 12 vs. South Dakota State, a 16-2 margin against Santa Clara on Dec. 22, a 33-10 edge against Nicholls State on Dec. 28, a 28-21 edge against Kennesaw State on Dec. 29 and a 29-27 edge against UNLV on Dec. 30 to keep the streak alive..
A Gopher has scored at least six points off the bench in every game, led by Blake Hoffarber’s 21 points against Colorado State. Hoffarber was the leading bench scorer in all three Duel in the Desert games with 13, 10 and 13 points against Nicholls State, Kennesaw State and UNLV, respectively. Damian Johnson and Kevin Payton both scored six points off the bench against Santa Clara on Dec. 22 while Lawrence McKenzie scored 20 points off the bench against Iowa State; Johnson chipped in a career-high 12 points against Army; Hoffarber scored 12 off the bench against Florida State while Hoffarber and Johnson chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench against UC Riverside. Al Nolen had 15 to lead the Gophers against NDSU, while Johnson contributed 10 points against South Dakota State.
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season.
Nolen is averaging 4.9 points, 3.2 assists, 2.3 steals and 21.6 minutes per game this season while shooting .469 (15-32) from the field. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in seven of the 12 games and has recorded 27 steals (2.3 spg), which ranks him first overall in the Big Ten. Nolen is also 14th in the Big Ten in assists at 3.2 assists per game.
Hoffarber is averaging 9.8 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .506 (42-83) from the floor, including .446 (29-65) from behind the arc, the fifith best percentage in the conference. He scored a season-high 21 points, hitting 6-of-11 three pointers, off the bench Dec. 8 against Colorado State. Hoffarber also came off the bench to contribute 13 points Dec. 1 against UC Riverside, 10 points against North Dakota State on Dec. 3, nine points Dec. 12 against South Dakota State and 13, 10 and 13 points, respectively during the three-game Duel in the Desert after Christmas.
Stat Sheet Filler
Minnesota forward Damian Johnson has been filling up the stat sheet all season. The sophomore from Thibodaux, La. started the regular season with a bang, as he came off the bench to score 12 points, grab eight rebounds, block four shots while also stealing four balls, all career highs. He tied a career-high in points on Dec. 1 against UC Riverside while also grabbing seven rebounds, blocking three shots and stealing three balls. Johnson is sixth on the team in scoring at 7.2 ppg, second in rebounding at 5.1 rpg, leads the team in blocks with 19 (1.6 bpg) and has the second most steals (18). His per game averages are all career-highs.
Minnesota has already racked up three 30+ point victories and one of the school’s most dominating victories to date, a 45-point win over Nicholls State, just 12 games into the 2007-08 season. The last time Minnesota won four games by 30 or more points in a season was 1991-92 when the Gophers posted five 30+ point wins. The 45-point victory vs. NSU is the largest since a 116-48 drubbing of Rider on January 3, 1990.
Also, with a 37-point victory over UC Riverside on Dec. 1 and a 38-point win over North Dakota State on Dec. 3, the Gophers won consecutive games by more than 30 points for the first time since 1991 when Minnesota posted a 95-54 win over Howard on Nov. 30 and a 98-59 win over Youngstown State on Dec. 2.