Missouri takes on a Minnesota team that could be more dangerous than expected. Should the Tigers be on upset alert on Thursday night?
TV Schedule: Thursday, November 16, 9:00 pm ET (BTN)
Location: Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minnesota
For their first road trip of the season Missouri is headed to Minneapolis to take on Minnesota. The Tigers are currently 2-1, coming off an 18-point win over Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville on Monday night. Missouri used a strong defensive performance to take down the Cougars 68-50.
The Tigers ended the game with seven steals, and eight blocks, and held SIU-E to only three made field goals in the second half. The last two of those made baskets came within the last two minutes of the game. Sean East II had yet another strong offensive performance, leading all scorers with 20 points. Noah Carter added 15 points of his own, knocking down four threes and grabbing 10 rebounds. The Tigers bounced back offensively after a poor showing against Memphis, making 11 threes and getting to the line 14 times making 11 of those attempts.
On the season the offense has been up and down, but one bright spot on that end of the floor has been Sean East II, who is now averaging 18.3 points. Noah Carter and Nick Honor are both averaging double-digit points, 13.3 points and 10.3 points respectively. Another bright spot for the offense has been the scoring from Tamar Bates off the bench. Bates is averaging just under 10 points on 58.8 percent shooting. The Missouri offense has plenty of shots to go around and there are plenty of players taking advantage of that style of play.
On the defensive end of the floor, Missouri has been holding up well in Connor Vanover’s absence, the SIU-E game was the last he was required to sit out. The Tigers are averaging 7 blocks through three games and with the addition of Vanover into the lineup that trend should continue. Missouri has also rebounded better this season, grabbing just under 37 rebounds per game. Again Vanover should be extremely helpful in keeping that trend going. Noah Carter and Caleb Grill have led the team in rebounds this season, with over 7 per game each.
Minnesota, who finished 14th in the Big Ten last season with a 9-22 overall record, enters the game at 2-0 on the season looking to bounce back from a bad second year for Head Coach Ben Johnson. The Golden Gophers’ offense is humming through the first two games. They are averaging 91 points after big wins over Bethune-Cookman and UTSA, winning both games by over 20 points. Minnesota is led by Junior Forward Dawson Garcia, who is averaging 22.5 points, 10 rebounds, and 4.5 assists.
The Golden Gophers are one of the better shooting teams in the country, making over 41 percent from three, almost 64 percent from inside the arc, and nearly 80 percent from the line. So far this season they have lived at the line, taking 69 free throws in the first two games and making 55 of them. Minnesota’s defense has also played well so far, giving up 68 points per game this season. As a team, they are averaging 5 blocks, 8 steals, and 40 rebounds per game, which isn’t surprising for a team with eight players on their roster listed at 6’8” or taller.
Minnesota does two things really well that have been problems for the Tigers, rebounding and getting to the free throw line. Missouri’s opponents are averaging 24 free throw attempts. While the Tigers have played better on defense, they can’t be giving up extra scoring opportunities on the road. As I stated before, the addition of Connor Vanover to the lineup should help with the rebounding, but time will tell if his presence in the post helps with the fouls.
Missouri will need to play a complete game to steal a win on the road. If Missouri’s offense shows up and the Tigers can limit Dawson Garcia’s offensive impact, then I feel pretty good about their chances to win. If neither of those things happen then it might be a long night for the Tigers.