GOPHERS/NITTANY LIONS PREVIEW
Minnesota defeated Penn State 65-60 on Jan. 27 at Williams Arena in the only matchup between the schools during the 2006-07 season. Center Jon Williams started the game for the Gophers and finshed with a career night as he scored 13 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the win. Lawrence McKenzie scored a team-high 19 points for Minnesota. Penn State forward Geary Claxton led all scorers with 20 to go along with 12 rebounds.
Overall, Minnesota holds a 13-3 record against Penn State in the all-time series and is currently on a five game win streak. The Nittany Lions last victory came during the 2003-04 season, 75-72 at State College.
Penn State is led by Claxton, the reigning Co-Big Ten Player of the Week. He is averaging 18.6 points and 8.9 rebounds for the 10-4 Nittany Lions.
Smith’s 11-3 start as head coach at Minnesota is the best record through the first 14 games since O.B. “Ozzie” Cowles started 13-1 in his first year with the Gophers during the 1948-49 season. That is a span of 10 Minnesota head coaches.
Minnesota leads the all-time series against Northwestern 84-56.
Minnesota has started 11-3 for the first time since 2004-05 when the Golden Gophers finished 21-11 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
Minnesota is 8-0 at Williams Arena this year. That is the Golden Gophers’ longest home-court winning streak since 2004-05 when they had a nine-game home winning streak.
Minnesota forced Northwestern into a season-high 19 turnovers.
The Golden Gophers 82 points against the Wildcats were the most that Northwestern has given up in Big Ten play since Penn State scored 83 against the Wildcats on Jan. 3, 2007.
Minnesota shot 28-for-55 from the field for a 50.9 field goal percentage. It is the seventh time this year the Golden Gophers have shot 50 percent or better from the field.
Minnesota shot 10-for-20 from three-point land. It is the fourth time this year the Golden Gophers have hit 10 or more three-pointers in a game.
Dan Coleman became the 17th player in school history to record 1,000 points and 500 rebounds in a career when he grabbed his 500th career rebound at the beginning of the second half.
Coleman had a career-high 14 rebounds for Minnesota.
Blake Hoffarber made his first five three-pointers of the game, and hit six in a row dating back to the Michigan State game on Jan. 5.
Hoffarber is 25-for-51 (49 percent) from three-point land in Williams Arena this year.
Al Nolen had three steals on the night. He has had three or more steals in seven games this season and 34 steals on the season, including seven in two Big Ten games.
Tollackson played in his 100th career game.
DEFENSE - DEFENSE - DEFENSE
The Gophers defense has been strong through the non-conference portion of the schedule and has continued into the Big Ten schedule. Through 14 games, the Gophers have averaged 10.9 steals per game, tops in the conference, blocked 5.1 shots per game, third in the conference, have averaged 22.7 defensive rebounds per game while holding opponents to 60.1 points per game, fourth lowest in the conference.
Individually, Gopher freshman Al Nolen leads the Gophers and the Big Ten is steals with 2.4 spg while sophomore Damian Johnson holds the team-lead in blocks, swatting 1.4 per game (fifth in the conference).
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in each of the team’s 14 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 429-214 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 and a 22-21 against Michigan State in the conference opener on Jan. 5. The Gophers outscored Northwestern 31-14 on Jan. 9 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 and his 15 point effort against Northwestern on Jan. 9. Hoffarber was also the leading bench scorer in all three Duel in the Desert games (Dec. 28-30) with 13, 10 and 13 points against Nicholls State, Kennesaw State and UNLV, respectively. Al Nolen scored seven off the bench against Michigan State while Damian Johnson and Kevin Payton both scored six points off the bench against Santa Clara on Dec. 22. 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. Nolen had 15 to lead the Gophers against NDSU, while Johnson contributed 10 points against South Dakota State.
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. Coleman has added 125 points since and currently sits 23rd on the career points list with 1,125. Mychal Thompson (1974-78) sits atop the list with 1,992 career points.
Also, with 14 rebounds vs. Northwestern (1/9) Coleman 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 90 career blocks, just three shy of Minnesota’s top-10.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
At this time last year, the Gophers were 6-8 but that is not the only major difference between the two seasons. Minnesota is averaging 14.8 more points per game this season (75.4-60.6) while allowing 6.1 points less per game (60.1-66.2).
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season.
Nolen is averaging 5.4 points, 3.6 assists, 2.4 steals and 22.0 minutes per game this season while shooting .465 (20-43) from the field. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in nine of the 14 games, including a career-high seven Jan. 5 at Michigan State, and has recorded 34 steals (2.4 spg), which ranks him first overall in the Big Ten. Nolen is also eighth in the Big Ten in assists at 3.6 assists per game and fourth in the conference with a 2.32 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 9.9 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .527 (49-93) from the floor, including a Big Ten Conference best .479 (35-73) from behind the arc. 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. He chipped in with five points off the bench in the Gophers conference opener Jan. 5 at Michigan State and contributed15 points in the Gophers conference home opener on Jan. 9 vs. Northwestern.
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.