The Gophers and Highlanders will meet for the first time Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena, as Minnesota looks to remain unbeaten this season at “The Barn”. UC Riverside comes in to the game with a record of 2-4, having won their last two games against the University of Idaho and Hope International. They are led by senior guard Larry Cunningham who is averaging 16.0 points, 3.2 rebounds, 1.0 assists and 28.7 minutes per game.
Minnesota/Florida State Notes
Freshman guard Al Nolen started for the first time with sophomore guard Lawrence Westbrook collecting just his fifth start while seniors Dan Coleman, Lawrence McKenzie and Spencer Tollackson started for the 68th, 57th and 37th time respectively, in their careers.
Through four games, Head Coach Tubby Smith has now used four different starting lineups.
Tollackson grabbed 10 rebounds against the Seminoles, the first time a Gopher player has finished with double-figure rebounds this season.
The Gophers outrebounded Florida State 40-39 and have now out rebounded all four of its opponents this season. Minnesota has outrebounded its opponents by an average of 7.0 per game.
With 10 points against FSU, McKenzie has now scored in double figures in each of the last three games, the 55th time he has done so in his career.
Blake Hoffarber scored a career-high 12 points. He scored in double figures for the first time.
Lawrence Westbrook tied his career high with 11 points, a mark he has achieved four times.
Lawrence McKenzie scored in double figures for the 55th time in his career.
Gophers vs. Big West
Minnesota and UC Riverside are meeting for the first time this afternoon. Minnesota does not have a lot of experience against teams from the Big West as well, playing only three games. The Gophers defeated Long Beach State in 1981 and 2003 and UC-Irvine in 1972.
In 17 years as a head coach, Tubby Smith has only faced Long Beach State out of the Big West, falling to the 49ers in 1992 as the head coach at Tulsa.
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in each of the four games this year. The Gophers hold a cumulative 132-69 bench scoring edge on its foes including a remarkable 30-1 advantage over Iowa State on November 24.
A Gopher has scored at least nine points off the bench in every game, led by Lawrence McKenzie’s 20 points against Iowa State. Damian Johnson came off the pine for 12 points against Army while Blake Hoffarber scored 12 against Florida State.
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season. Nolen has led the Gophers in assists in each of the four games and has recorded 11 steals, which rank him second in the Big Ten overall at 2.75 thefts per game.
Nolen also ranks fifth in the Big Ten in assists at 4.25 per game.
Hoffarber led Minnesota with 12 points against Florida State on Tuesday, making 5-of-9 field goals and two three-pointers. The Hopkins native is fifth on the team in scoring at 7.2 ppg and leads the Gophers with a .412 three-point percentage (7-of-17).