GAME NOTES: Big Ten action gets underway at Williams Arena on Thursday evening, as the surging Minnesota Golden Gophers play host to the Michigan Wolverines.
Richard Pitino's tenure at Minnesota has gotten off to a fast start. The team is an impressive 11-2 entering league play, bringing a six-game win streak into this contest after closing out non-conference play with a 65-54 rout of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi last weekend.
John Beilein's Wolverines found themselves in the Top 25 for a good portion of the early season, but enter league play at just 8-4. Michigan has won two straight games since its last loss, a 72-70 nail-biter against top-ranked Arizona, topping both Stanford (68-65) and Holy Cross (88-66) to close out the 2013 calendar year.
Michigan has won the last four meetings with Minnesota and eight of the last nine matchups, overall.
Holy Cross struggled with Michigan, which shot the ball at a near 60-percent clip in the first half to jump out to a big lead. Overall, the Wolverines delivered on 55.9 percent from the floor in the win, while holding a 37-28 advantage on the boards. Glenn Robinson III led the way with a game-high 23 points. Nik Stauskas and Caris LeVert poured in 16 points apiece, while Jon Horford came off the bench to tack on 10.
Playing well at both ends of the floor, Michigan enters Big Ten action with an impressive +15.6 scoring margin. The Wolverines are shooting a healthy .470 from the field while putting up 79.1 ppg. Stauskas has been sharp, leading the team with 18.2 ppg, thanks in large part to his .475 efficiency from behind the arc. Robinson is also converting at a high rate from the floor overall (.504), leading to 14.2 ppg. LeVert adds 13.1 ppg in rounding out the top scoring threats. Michigan has lost an asset up front however, as forward Mitch McGary (9.5 ppg, 8.3 rpg) is sidelined with a back injury.
Minnesota hasn't been as efficient on the year at a modest .434 shooting, but the team does put up a strong 77.4 ppg. The three-guard set of Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and DeAndre Mathieu fuels the attack. Andre Hollins paces the squad at 16.2 ppg and makes opponents pay for sending him to the foul line, where he converts 84.5 percent of the time (60-of-71). Austin Hollins isn't far behind in the scoring column at 13.5 ppg and is an effective rebounder as well (7.2 rpg). Mathieu adds 11.5 ppg to the mix and is tops on the team in assists (4.8 apg) and steals (2.1 spg).
The Golden Gophers didn't have their best offensive game last time out, but Texas A&M Corpus Christi was unable to take advantage of a poor shooting performance by the home team (.373), as the outcome wasn't really in doubt. Andre Hollins led all scorers with 18 points in the victory. Austin Hollins finished in double figures as well, tallying 13 points.
The Wolverines are certainly dangerous team with the ability to contend for the Big Ten title, but Minnesota is flying under the radar a little bit and is definitely capable of making a run of its own. In their own building, look for the Gophers to come out on top.
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