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The Historic Day of Reggie Lynch

Minnesota’s win over Penn State on Saturday including a history performance from Reggie Lynch and nearly a historic performance from Nate Mason.

Reggie Lynch blocked 11 shots (and I would argue he should have been given credit for a dozen swats) which was the second best shot blocking day in the history of Golden Gopher basketball.

The record of twelve blocks is held by Mychal Thompson from a game in 1976.  Lynch surpassed the ten from Joel Przybilla which was the second best total all time before Saturday. 

Reggie needed three blocks coming into the game to tie Randy Breuer’s career mark for blocks in a season.  Breuer had 87 blocks in 29 games during the 1982-83 season.  The 11 blocks from Lynch put him at 95 blocks for the season through 29 games. 

With Lynch to play at least four more games this year he’s likely to put that record out of reach for anyone other than himself to break. What about the all time record?  Could Reggie Lynch break the all time shot blocks record at Minnesota in only two years? It’s not a crazy thought.

Reggie is at 95 now.  If the team plays five more games and Reggie blocks his average he will finish the year at about 111.  That would mean he would need 124 next year to reach Kevin McHale’s all time mark of 235.  The more games Minnesota plays the better chance Lynch has.

What’s even more amazing about Reggie’s Saturday performance was that he finished the game with zero fouls. 

“He found a way,” Richard Pitino said after the game.  “He is getting better from it. He is continuing to learn from it. Obviously, 29 minutes, 11 blocks, no fouls, I’ll take that every night.

“Reggie wanted to play for his home state. He didn’t want to go anywhere else. He wanted to come here to play for the name on the front of the jersey.”

Pitino made a point that Lynch is motivated by playing in front of his friends, family, and fellow Minnesotans.  And when Reggie was on the court, and left the court the fans let him know their love for him with chants of “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!”.

"That was something I did not expect at all,” Lynch said of the chant.  “When it happened, I was like, 'wow. This is awesome.' Even when the chant was going on, our team was doing really well. That's what I was focused on.

“The chant was awesome, but everyone on the court was connected and we were celebrating each others success. I'm really happy everyone felt good throughout the course of the game."

Penn State Head Coach Patrick Chambers wasn’t surprised at Lynch’s performance.

"We knew what he was going to do, we knew he is one of the best shot blockers in the country,” Chambers said.  “At some point we need to understand that he has 6, 8, 10 blocks. 11 blocks is great, good for Reggie, and that is why their defense so good."

Minnesota’s defense has been fantastic this year and when at home, it’s even better.

“Best crowd of the year,” Pitino said.  “Our guys are responsible for that. With the way that they play, they attract people to the stands. Winning helps, obviously, but it is cool to see it traject in the right way and more empty seats were being filled.

“I thought that was an awesome crowd. Like I’ve said, we don’t need it against Wisconsin or Indiana, we need it against Penn State who was very good. I think the town was proud of these guys.”

The Minnesota fans are proud of everything this team has accomplished.  A seven game winning streak that is best in the nation right now among major college programs.  A 22-7 record and a 10-6 mark in Big Ten play. 

"I think we have a lot of momentum as a team right now,” Jordan Murphy said after his 16 points and 16 rebounds.  “I think we playing good and we're confident. We're paying attention to little things and small details. I think that seven-game win streak is going to go a long way for us.

"I think the sky's the limit with this team, honestly. We're really deep and a really versatile team. We have a lot of pieces on this team. I think the sky's the limit for us."

Hitting the 22 win mark with a minimum of four games left in the season doesn’t surprise Lynch or his teammates.  They had these type of expectations from day one. 

"We all knew we were going to be a great team before the season even started this year,” Reggie said.  “When that five-game losing streak hit, some teams might just fold and think 'maybe we aren't as good as we thought,' but we stayed connected and fought back.

“Seven games after losing five just shows how mentally tough we are as a team and how we came together and overcame huge adversity."

Minnesota is playing so well that guys like Amir Coffey and Akeem Springs hit double figures and don’t enter the postgame conversation. 

Senior Nate Mason was two assists away from a triple double and that was barely noticed.  Mason had 16 points, a career high ten boards, and eight assists.  If he would have had two more it would have been the first triple double from a Golden Gopher in nearly 40 years.

Right now Gopher basketball is a fun ride and Pitino is smiling every day.

“Well, last year, it wasn’t like people were throwing batteries at me, but people just weren’t talking to me,” Pitino said.  “Everybody is very friendly, but this is what you dream of. To play well, to get the fans’ support, to get the city behind you.

“This state is so proud, not only of basketball, but this university and when it’s good, it’s awesome. It’s fun to be the Gopher basketball coach right now. I think we have really turned a corner.

“I think it’s okay to say that we are in the NCAA tournament. I think that we are clicking, offensively getting better. Obviously, during that stretch, five game losing streak, we were in the 60s (for points) and now we are averaging in the 80s, so offensively we are getting comfortable where we are at.

“I think it’s clear the guys are playing their best basketball and improving.”

Gopher fans have one more chance to watch their team play in Williams Arena this year and that is this Thursday night on Senior Day when Tim Miles and Nebraska come to town.  By your tickets quick, Gopher basketball is the hottest ticket in town right now.

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