It’s closing time for Purdue. With one victory this week our Boilers can finish no worse than in a tie for first place in the Big Ten. With two wins we can take the title outright. Unlike last year there will be no scoreboard watching as Michigan State makes a furious comeback at Northwestern or holds off Wisconsin. It is entirely in Purdue’s hands. Even though both games are on the road I really like our chances because one will be at the last place team in the conference.
First we need to face a desperate Minnesota team, however.
From: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Date: Tuesday, March 5, 2018
Tip Time: 8pm ET
Location: Minneapolis, MN
Arena: Williams Arena (14,625)
Television: Big Ten Network
Radio: Purdue Radio Network
SiriusXM Satellite: XM (Ch. 381); Internet (Ch. 968)
Live Stats: bit.ly/PurdueLiveStats
2017-18 Record: 15-17, 4-14 Big Ten
2018-19 Record: 18-11, 8-10 Big Ten
Opponent Blog: The Daily Gopher
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 104-83
Last Minnesota Win: 91-82 (OT) at Purdue on 1/1/2017
Last Purdue Win: 73-63 at Purdue on 2/3/2019
NCAA Tournament History: 13 appearances, last in 2017. 1997 Final Four
Coach: Richard Pitino (108-89 in 5th season at Minnesota, 124-97 overall)
Since losing at Purdue on February 3rd the Gophers have struggled. They just 2-6 in the last eight games, beating only Indiana at home and Northwestern in Evanston last Thursday. ESPN’s Bubble Watch has them right on the Bubble as of now, and they have two chances at Quad 1 wins this week by hosting us and going to Maryland. This is as close to a must-win as you can get. With only a 2-8 Quad 1 record the Gophers need a big win to cement their place.
They have a chance, too. They were leading Purdue 47-34 with 14:05 left in West Lafayette before the Boilers ripped off a 23-2 run to take a 55-49 lead. Daniel Oturu had a fantastic game off the bench with 19 points and 9 rebounds while Amir Coffey had 22 points. Jordan Murphy also had 10, but this was a game where Purdue dominated inside. Trevion Williams had 16, Matt Haarms had a 15 and 8, and Nojel Eastern asserted himself with 11 tough points.
The Gophers have been struggling offensively since that game. They hit 84 points in blowing out Indiana, but have had nights of 51, 55, 61, 60, 64, and 62 in the other six games since playing us. That is not going to get it done with as hot as Purdue was against Ohio State on Saturday. Aside from the Indiana and Maryland games Purdue has been comfortably in the 70s offensively since we played Minnesota and even hit 80 twice. With Minnesota 11th in scoring defense that is a good sign.
I really think this comes down to how well Purdue plays. At Nebraska everyone picked up the slack for a struggling Carsen Edwards, but at Indiana and Maryland the offense was atrocious. We were lucky to win at Indiana. Purdue needs to come in focused and ready to take care of business. Yes, it is nice to have last place Northwestern in our back pocket if we fall here, but why not take care of things right now?
The Gophers do still have a lot to play for. This will not be easy.