No. 14 Minnesota expects offensive showdown at Arkansas
Minnesota has hit a bit of a stumbling block, losing two of its past three games after a 7-0 start.
On Saturday, the 14th-ranked Golden Gophers face a difficult test on the road against unranked Arkansas.
The Razorbacks (6-2) will be looking for payback after losing at Minnesota 85-71 in 2016.
Minnesota lost a Big Ten game at Nebraska 78-68 on Tuesday. Gophers coach Richard Pitino said his team didn’t have time to dwell on that loss.
“We’ve got to learn from it, and then we’ve got to go play another tough one on Saturday,” Pitino said.
Both teams feature prolific offenses. Minnesota averages 87 points while Arkansas scores 87.3 points per game.
“It should be a fun game,” Arkansas coach Mike Anderson said. “It’s two teams that like to score.”
Four players average at least 11.6 points for Minnesota, led by 19.9 points from junior forward Jordan Murphy.
Murphy struggled a bit in the loss to Nebraska, scoring 10 points on 4-for-12 shooting. He missed nine of his first 10 shots.
Senior guard Nate Mason averages 15.7 points for the Gophers. Sophomore guard Amir Coffey, who averages 13.8 points, scored 19 in Minnesota’s victory over Arkansas in 2016.
“They’re a very, very good basketball team,” Anderson said. “We’re going to have to play some really good basketball.”
Arkansas is led by a pair of senior guards in Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon. Barford averages 19.6 points per game and has made 46.2 percent of his three-point shots this season. Macon averages 14.6 points and has shot 43.9 percent from three-point range.
True freshman forward Daniel Gafford has been an impact player at times for Arkansas, averaging 12.0 points and 5.8 rebounds, but he also has been plagued by foul trouble that has limited him to 18.9 minutes a game.
Gafford’s rebounding ability could be critical against a Minnesota team that has outrebounded its opponents by an average of six per game.
Murphy averages 12.8 rebounds and already has 56 offensive rebounds this season.
“We’ve got to match their energy on the boards,” Anderson said.
Minnesota has forced its opponents into 14 turnovers a game this season. In their victory over Arkansas last year, the Gophers took advantage of 21 Razorback turnovers — a number that Anderson said has to improve if Arkansas has a chance to win this time around.
“I know that’s something we’ve got to be better at in terms of taking care of the basketball,” he said.
Anderson said he expects Minnesota to play well.
“We’ll get a team that will be charged up to play and we’ve got to be ready and charged up as well,” Anderson said.