GAME NOTES: Both the Purdue Boilermakers and the Minnesota Golden Gophers will attempt to win their first Big Ten Conference matchup on the season Sunday afternoon when the squads meet up at Williams Arena.
Purdue opened up conference play on New Year's Eve at home against nationally- ranked Ohio State but fell on the wrong end of a 78-69 final. The Boilermakers are a stellar 10-4 on the season, but they have gone just 5-4 in recent weeks following a 5-0 start.
Minnesota was riding a six-game winning streak heading into its league opener versus Michigan on Thursday night, but its luck came to an end in the form of a 63-60 setback, its first loss at Williams Arena this season in 10 tries. The Gophers, who are 11-3 this season, wrap up a six-game homestand with this matchup and will embark on a two-game road swing later in the week.
These old rivals have squared off 164 times before, with Purdue holding an 89-75 advantage. Its 89-73 victory in the 2012-13 regular-season finale was its third straight win over the Gophers.
The Boilermakers fought hard with the Buckeyes in their most recent bout, but with the score tied at 46 with under 13 minutes to play, they lost control of the game when OSU ripped off a 19-7 run. Their .418 field goal percentage was solid against such a strong defensive club, but they were only 3-of-14 from 3- point range and lost the turnover battle, 12-6. A.J. Hammons was a beast down low in the loss, tallying 18 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks. Terone Johnson stuffed the stat sheet as well with 13 points, nine rebounds and five assists, while Ronnie Johnson poured in 16 points.
Its last performance not withstanding, Purdue has been solid on both ends of the floor this season, shooting 45.2 percent from the field for a +7.1 scoring margin, while also living in the green in terms of rebounding (+2.7) and turnovers (+1.6). Terone Johnson acts as the go-to scoring option with 13.9 ppg on 45.8 percent from the field. Ronnie Johnson brings 11.1 ppg to the table, while Hammons is a much-needed presence in the frontcourt, boasting 8.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg, while blocking nearly four shots per contest.
In a game that consisted of nine ties and 10 lead changes, the Gophers ultimately couldn't hold off the Wolverines on Thursday night, as they suffered the tough three-point home loss. It was a poor shooting performance all around, as they made less than 40 percent of their field goal tries (including 5-of-19 from 3-point range), while failing to help themselves at the foul line (13-of-19). Malik Smith and Andre Hollins paced the modest attack with 12 points apiece, with Smith doing his damage on 3-of-4 from 3- point range. Elliott Eliason posted a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
It was a rare performance for Minnesota, which, despite shooting a modest 43.1 percent from the floor this season, nets 76.1 ppg, 11.2 ppg more than its allows on the other end of the court. Andre Hollins shoots less than 40 percent from the field, but he's drained 82.3 percent of his free-throw attempts to aid his way to a team-high 15.9 ppg. Austin Hollins scores 12.6 ppg and helps out elsewhere with 6.9 rpg and 1.8 spg. DeAndre Mathieu (11.4 ppg) and Malik Smith (9.9 ppg) are also solid scorers, while Eliason collects 8.4 rpg and 2.3 bpg.
Minnesota proved to be vulnerable on its home floor in its most recent game, but expect the Gophers to bounce back in this one against a Purdue squad with minimal experience away from home this season.
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