Game Preview: Bucknell at Minnesota

The Gophers will look to open their 2011-2012 campaign with a victory over the Bucknell Bison

DATE: November 11, 2011
TIME: Friday, 7:00 p.m.
SITE: Minneapolis, Minnesota.
ARENA: Williams Arena
SERIES: The Gophers have never faced the Bucknell Bison before but are 6-1 against Patriot League opponents.
RECORD: Minnesota (0-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Bucknell (0-0, 0-0 Patriot League)
LAST MEETING: The last time the Gophers played a foe from the Patriot league they beat Army 84-52 in Tubby Smith's first game with Minnesota.

STORYLINE:
The Gophers are looking to rebound from a tough second half of the season last year which saw Minnesota finish a dismal 17-14, losing their last six games. Although some Minnesota fans may see the Bucknell Bison as an easy way to bounce back from last season, they will be no easy task for the Gophers. The Bison return four starters from a team that went 25-9, making an appearance in the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual champion Connecticut. Bucknell will surely be handful for Minnesota on Friday night.

BY THE NUMBERS:
2: The Bison and Gophers are two of the oldest three, along with Yale, Division I basketball programs in the country.

15: The Gophers blocked a total of 15 shots in their two exhibition victories this season.

11: Minnesota had 11 non-conference wins last year with only one loss heading into Big Ten play.

KEYS TO THE GAME:
As many Gopher fans already know, the strength of this year's team is the formidable front court of Rodney Williams, Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III. Minnesota will not enjoy the same height and size advantage that they have had in their exhibition games, but the length and athleticism of these three players will give the Gophers the front court advantage on Friday. In order to earn their first victory of the season, Minnesota will need to be active on glass, using their athleticism to dominate the boards and get easy put backs.

As with many mid-major teams, the three pointer is a key part of the Bucknell offense. Last season, the Bison launched 585 shots from deep, making an incredible 234, 40 percent from behind the arc. The Gophers, on the other hand, have given up 18 three pointers in their two exhibition games. If the Bison want to notch a win against a Big Ten opponent they will need to be deadly from the long range.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
GOPHERS:
-- PG Andre Hollins #1 – Freshman Andre Hollins will likely get the start on Friday, his first regular season start as a Gopher. The athletic guard from Memphis has shown promise in his first two exhibition games, totaling nine assists to just two turnovers.

Bison:
-- C Mike Muscala #31 – The 6-foot-11, Roseville (Minn.) native returns to his home state to take on the Gophers. Muscala was dominant last season for the Bison, averaging nearly 15 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest. Look for Muscala to have a solid performance in his return to Minnesota.


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