Men’s basketball: Skidding Gophers have another injury issue
Center Trey Thompson broke his nose at Northwestern but plans to play Wednesday vs. Rutgers
ST. PAUL -- The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team must deal with yet another injury to a big man going into Wednesday’s game at Rutgers.
Center Treyton Thompson broke his nose in the 81-61 loss to Northwestern on Saturday but plans to wear a protective mask and play against the Scarlet Knights, head coach Ben Johnson said Tuesday.
The status of Dawson Garcia, the Gophers leading scorer and rebounder, remains up in the air after he missed the past two games with a bone bruise in his foot.
“(Garcia) did a little bit more” in Tuesday’s practice, Johnson said. “It will 100% still be a game-time decision.”
Minnesota center Pharrel Payne (concussion) missed the 61-57 loss to Indiana but returned to play against Northwestern. He’s available for the 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Jersey Mikes Arena in Piscataway, N.J.
The Gophers (7-13, 1-9 Big Ten) will need all the help they can get against Rutgers (14-7, 6-4) and their 6-foot-11 center Clifford Omoruyi, who is averaging team-highs 13.4 points and 10.0 rebounds a game. Johnson is impressed with Omoruyi’s athleticism and offensive skills, but said he is “so impressive” on defense. He is third in the Big Ten with 2.0 blocks per game.
“(It’s) the way he can move his feet and guard ball screens, the way he can rotate and block shots and protect the rim,” Johnson said. “He’s got an unbelievable motor, playing with a ton of confidence. I just think defensively, he sets the tone, especially in that back line for what they do.”
The Gophers had 15 turnovers in the blowout loss to Northwestern last weekend, so their focus will also need to be internal. Since beating Ohio State on Jan. 12, Minnesota has lost five in a row, although the Gophers played well in a four-point loss to Indiana on Jan. 25.
“In order to compete with these top echelon teams, we have to have the Ohio State- and the Indiana-type mindset and we don’t have a lot of room for error, so we can’t half step when we start games,” Johnson said. “We’ve got to be able to come in there with the right mentality if we are going to give ourselves a chance, especially when (we) are down guys.”
If Garcia can’t play, Minnesota will have eight scholarship players available, including three freshmen in the rotation. Meanwhile, the top six players for Rutgers are juniors or seniors. The Scarlet Knights are the only team to beat No. 1 Purdue this season.
Checking in on Christie
After the Gophers’ loss Saturday in Evanston, Ill., Johnson traveled nine miles to Glenview to see Gophers signee Cameron Christie play for Rolling Meadows High School.
Christie scored 20 points, including 12 in the third quarter, in a 72-53 loss to Moline, a team led by Iowa recruits Owen Freeman and Brock Harding.
“I just love the talent level that’s there,” Johnson said of Christie, who will join the U this summer. “… He’s got good size (6-foot-5) and got good length and good quickness. He can get to his spots. He can make shots off the catch, make shots off the dribble. Just to see a guy that has the attributes that we’re looking for can play at this high level and has the talent and the skill and is willing to work and be developed. That is what gets you excited.”
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