Opponent Preview: Western Kentucky

Tonight at 6:30, the Gophers will start their run at the Puerto Rico Tipoff title against Western Kentucky. The tourney features eight teams from around the country including powerhouses North Carolina and West Virginia. In order to play against this top competition the Gopher will have to knock off a tough Western Kentucky team tonight in their opener.

The Gophers have started the season with quality wins against NCAA tourney teams, Woffard and Siena. These two games have showcased many things about Minnesota's team. Firstly, the Gopher's frontcourt can be very dominant. Junior transfer Trevor Mbakwe and forward/center Ralph Sampson have been unstoppable up front.

Mbakwe is averaging 12.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game while Sampson has netted 16.5 points and 9.5 rebounds per contest. With the lack of Devoe Joseph and the early shooting struggles for Blake Hoffarber, the bigs will need to continue to play well if they want to come away with a victory against Western Kentucky.

Western Kentucky also enters the game with a record of two wins and no losses. This good start can be attributed to the play of three senior forwards, Sergio Kerusch, Juan Pattillo, and Steffphon Pettigrew. All three players are 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 and are averaging at least 18.0 points in their first two games, with Kerusch leading the way with 20.0 points per game.

This size and scoring ability could prove to be a deadly combination against the Gophers. Look for these players to have big games tonight and for the Gophers to make adjustments midgame to try and stop this trio.

The game should be a high scoring affair but the Minnesota big men should quell the Western Kentucky attack enough for the Gophers to come away with a victory. Expect a final score of 82-77 with the Gophers advancing on to the winner's bracket.


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