North Florida (3-4) at (21) Minnesota (7-1)
Saturday, December 1, 2 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: None. Home Record: UNF 2-0, Minnesota 4-0. Away Record: UNF 1-4, Minnesota 1-0. Neutral Record: UNF 0-0, Minnesota 2-1. Conference Record: UNF 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The 21st-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers return home on Saturday afternoon for a non-conference clash with the North Florida Ospreys.
After winning its season opener at home over Edward Waters College (79-65), North Florida fell into a four-game losing streak, which included defeats on the road to high-quality opponents like Memphis (81-66), Kansas State (74-55) and Florida State (75-67). The Ospreys have recovered since then with back-to- back wins at Bethune-Cookman (71-65) and at home verses Florida A&M (72-47).
Minnesota opened its season with four straight wins in its home arena before traveling to the Bahamas for the Battle 4 Atlantis, and although it lost its opening round matchup against Duke (89-71), it put together impressive wins in the consolation round over Memphis (84-75) and Stanford (66-63) to salvage its weekend. The Gophers improved their winning streak to three in a row on the road earlier this week with a very impressive 77-68 win over Florida State.
This bout marks the inaugural matchup between these two programs in men's basketball.
The formula for success for the Ospreys has been pretty simple this season -- if they score 70 points or more, they are 3-0, and if they put up less than 70 they are 0-4. Not only did they hit their magic number in their latest game, they put together their best performance to date at the defensive end, holding Florida A&M to just 32.6 percent shooting while forcing 19 turnovers in the 25-point win. Parker Smith was far from impressive from the field (5-of-15), but he still put up a game-high 18 points. Smith has been unquestionably the go-to guy for North Florida, as he is scoring 17.1 ppg and draining more than half of his three-point attempts (31-of-60). Travis Wallace scored 12 points in the latest win, and he is the only other player to score in double figures through seven games (10.9 ppg). The team gets beat up on the glass on a nightly basis, laying claim to a rebounding margin of minus-6.7.
The Gophers haven't done much wrong through the first eight games. They are shooting an impressive 47.2 percent from the field while sporting a solid field goal percentage defense (.359), which has allowed them to outscore the opposition by nearly 14 ppg. Minnesota went into hostile territory in Tallahassee in its latest game and put on a clinic against FSU, leading the game wire-to-wire in its first true road tilt of the year. Joe Coleman made 8- of-13 from the field in the victory for a game-high 16 points, while Andre Hollins tallied 12 points, five rebounds and five assists. Rodney Williams (14 points, three blocks) and Austin Hollins (13 points) were also integral parts to the winning effort. The well-balanced effort is nothing new for the squad. Williams leads the way with 14.1 ppg on nearly 63 percent from the field, with Andre Hollins (13.8 ppg, 4.1 apg) right on his tail. Austin Hollins (11.5 ppg) and Coleman (10.0 ppg) round out the double-digit scorers, while Trevor Mbakwe (8.1 ppg) is the leading rebounder with 6.4 rpg on a team that outrebounds the opposition by nearly eight boards per contest.
North Florida deserves credit for its difficult non-conference schedule, but it has yet to prove it is capable of competing with the higher-level teams. Minnesota is playing much better than expected to start the season, and at home, it should make easy work of the Ospreys.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 76, North Florida 53
12/01 10:36:00 ET