Ann Arbor, MI (SportsNetwork.com) - The 16th-ranked Michigan Wolverines hope to maintain their place atop the Big Ten Conference standings, as they play host to the Minnesota Golden Gophers on Saturday evening.
Minnesota enters the fray having recently notched one of its biggest wins of the season, as the team scored a 95-89 upset of No. 20 Iowa at home. The scoring outburst was the team's highest in a regulation Big Ten bout since 1995. The Golden Gophers had lost six of their previous eight games. At 18-11 overall and 7-9 in conference, Minnesota's first season under head coach Richard Pitino, while far from stellar, has been successful.
Michigan slipped by Purdue on the road this past Wednesday, 77-76 in overtime, to stay a game up on second-place Michigan State in the Big Ten standings. The Wolverines bring a 20-7 overall record and a 12-3 league ledger into this bout with a Minnesota squad they beat in a 63-60 final in the Big Ten opener back on Jan. 2. Michigan controls its own destiny with regard to winning the Big Ten regular-season championship. Including this matchup, coach John Beilein's squad has three games left, the other two being against Illinois and Indiana.
With their win earlier this season, the Wolverines extended their lead in the all-time series with Minnesota to 87-65. Overall, Michigan has won the last five meetings between the two long-time rivals.
Led by a trio of double-digit scorers, Minnesota is putting up 72.2 ppg in hitting 44.6 percent of its field goal attempts, which includes a near-35 percent showing from 3-point range. Andre Hollins (14.8 ppg), DeAndre Mathieu (11.9 ppg, 4.3 apg) and Austin Hollins (11.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are all averaging double figures from their spot in the backcourt. The club's defensive effort yields 67.9 ppg, with that figure climbing to 70.3 ppg in conference play. The Gophers lead the league is steals with 221.
Austin Hollins scored a career-high 27 points to help push the Gophers past the visiting Iowa Hawkeyes earlier this week. Mathieu added 19 points to go with seven assists, while Andre Hollins had 14 points and Charles Buggs 13 for Minnesota, which converted a sizzling 61.2 percent of its field goal attempts, draining 11-of-19 3-point tries along the way. A 24-of-29 effort at the free- throw line also played an integral role in the favorable outcome.
Michigan is the third-highest scoring team in the Big Ten this season, netting 75.2 ppg thanks to its league-leading shooting efforts from the field (.477), 3-point range (.389) and the free-throw line (.757). At the other end of the court, the Wolverines rank last in the conference in field goal percentage defense (.438), while allowing 65.4 ppg to rank sixth. Nik Stauskas is averaging 16.9 ppg to head the team and rank sixth in the Big Ten, and he is joined in double figures by Caris LeVert (13.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Glenn Robinson III (13.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg).
Robinson III went 7-of-11 from the field to net 17 points, Stauskas added 15, LeVert 14 and Jordan Morgan 13, all of which Michigan needed as it survived an overtime affair at Purdue earlier in the week. The Wolverines struggled from long range (6-of-23), but took exceptional care of the basketball (seven turnovers). Both teams shot just over 41 percent from the field, and UM got 10 points from its reserves, compared to only two for the home team.