Golden Gophers vs. Morgan State Bears
6:00 pm (CST) at Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Radio: WCCO 830 AM
Tickets: Best available- Row 12 upper deck, center court
The bubble isn’t usually mentioned until the end of January, but that is where the Gophers find themselves, and it is only December. Williams Arena is not likely to be raucous until the Big Ten season starts, and there won’t be much buzz during the rest of the non-conference season. These games matter though, a lot. A loss to one of these mid-majors could be a season killer.
If the Gophers are going to lose another game before the Big Ten season, a prime candidate to knock them off is the Morgan State Bears. These bears will be noticeably more fierce than the Brown Bears which were easily stuffed by the Gophers, and they have a history of stunning road wins. Last season they won at Maryland. This year they have already beaten Arkansas. Their 5-3 record with only one home game so far is a testament to their fearless attitude. Morgan State won’t be intimidated.
Morgan State has good size up front for a mid-level mid-major, with three players 6’8” or taller who play significant minutes. Their wing and back court size, or lack there of could get them in trouble. They start a pair of 6’0” guards, and don’t have the size on the wings to match Paul Carter, Rodney Williams, or Damian Johnson.
The Bears are led by Reggie Holmes, a prolific scorer averaging almost 25 points per game. If he gets the ball, he will shoot. He has dished out only three assists in eight games. Kevin Thompson averages a double-double and is shooting 52.4% from the field. Sean Thomas is the leading distributor on his team with 3.4 assists per game, including 10 assists and only one turnover against Appalachian State.
Despite some very solid individual numbers, Morgan State still has a hard time winning games, especially against teams they should be able to beat. They struggle on both ends of the court. On offense, they do everything well except shooting. They make only 31.1% from behind the three point line and make barely 45% inside the arc. Besides their shooting, they get to the line, are an excellent offensive rebounding team, and make almost 75% of their free throws. When they are guarded they can’t put the ball in the basket, and that isn’t a way to win games.
Defensively, they can’t force turnovers, and are ranked #303 in the category. They also commit a lot of fouls and send their opponents to the free throw line. The Gophers need practice at the line, and they should get plenty of it.
Keys for the Gophers
- Continue to emphasize the half court offense. We should see the Gophers press a bit more than they did on Saturday, but it is likely going to be used to build a quick lead. Once they have that lead, they’ll need to keep working out the kinks in the half court.
- Make free throws. Maybe they’ll finally get to 70%.
- Start Blake Hoffarber. He had a great game on Saturday, and it would be great to see him have another one. If his rebounding stays strong, at around 5 per game, the Gophers will gain his shooting, ball handling, and passing, and not lose anything even though he isn’t a typical small forward.
Keys for the Bears
- Play aggressive defense. This may be particularly difficult since Morgan State doesn’t force many turnovers but does send their opponents to the line far too often. If they sit back it could get ugly fast.
- Reggie Holmes needs to have the game of his life. He already has a 34 point game against Arkansas. With Damian Johnson all over him, he’ll be lucky to get half that.
- Don’t get down too fast, too early. With their poor defense, they aren’t built for comebacks.