GAME NOTES: The Boilermakers, who are 15-1 overall, have posted 10 consecutive wins since suffering their lone defeat to Richmond on a neutral court. Purdue is 4-0 versus league competition, and the most recent triumph came over Iowa last Sunday by a 75-52 final. All four conference victories have come by 13 or more points, proof of Purdue's dominance.
Losses in three of the last four outings have dropped Minnesota to 12-4 after a sensational start to the season. The Golden Gophers fell to 1-3 in Big Ten action with a 67-64 setback to second-ranked Ohio State on the road this past Sunday, but while the outcome wasn't what coach Tubby Smith had hoped for, the effort was certainly strong. Now, Minnesota is back at home where it is 8-1 thus far.
Purdue holds a 95-79 series lead over Minnesota, and has won five of the last six meetings with the Golden Gophers.
Matt Painter, the head coach at Purdue, is fortunate to have one of the nation's truly elite duos in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Johnson, a 6-10 forward/center, is racking up 19.4 ppg to go along with 8.3 rpg and 40 blocked shots. As for Moore, a standout guard, he checks in with 18.8 ppg on the strength of his 42.4 percent shooting from behind the arc. He is also pulling down 6.0 rpg and has handed out 49 assists to go along with 27 steals. Purdue is scoring 76.2 ppg, but the strength of the club is its smothering defense which limits foes to 57.0 ppg on 38.8 percent field goal efficiency. Purdue is outrebounding foes by 5.4 rpg and has forced 269 turnovers. Against Iowa in last Sunday's 23-point win, the Boilermakers forced 16 turnovers and limited the Hawkeyes to 36.5 percent field goal efficiency. Ryne Smith hit 6-of-9 three-pointers and finished with 18 points for Purdue, which got 16 points from Johnson and 11 points from Moore.
Minnesota's duo of Blake Hoffarber and Trevor Mbakwe isn't on par with Purdue's big two, but both Gophers are netting a solid 13.4 ppg. Mbakwe, a 59.7 percent shooter from the field, is also ripping down 10.4 rpg, while Hoffarber has dished out 69 assists. Ralph Sampson rounds out a trio of double-digit scorers with 10.7 ppg. The Golden Gophers are posting 73.6 ppg while allowing 67.9 ppg to foes, and they are outrebounding teams by over six boards per contest. Mbakwe tallied 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks against Ohio State last Sunday, and Al Nolen added 11 points for the Gophers. Unfortunately, Hoffarber was limited to seven points, and Minnesota turned the ball over 15 times while shooting just 2-of-14 from three-point range. Mbakwe made the news this week for the wrong reason, as he was arrested Monday for allegedly violating a harassment restraining order. The student-athlete sent a Facebook message to an ex-girlfriend who has had the restraining order against him since 2009. Coach Smith called the incident a well-intentioned lapse of judgement and will not suspend Mbakwe, although he may not start this evening.
Regardless of whether or not Mbakwe starts, Purdue will win this game on the road. Johnson and Moore will be outstanding as usual.
GAME NOTES: In search of their ninth straight Big Ten Conference road win, the eighth-ranked Purdue Boilermakers invade Williams Arena in Minneapolis for a showdown with the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Purdue 9-0, Minnesota 8-1. Away Record: Purdue 4-0, Minnesota 1-3. Neutral Record: Purdue 2-1, Minnesota 3-0. Conference Record: Purdue 4-0, Minnesota 1-3. Series Record: Purdue leads, 95-79.
Purdue 80, Minnesota 70