The Daily Nole

Preview: FSU Looks to End Skid in ACC/Big Ten Challenge vs. Minnesota

Colin Abbey/FSU athletics

Fresh off a third place finish in the NIT Season Tip-Off, Florida State will return to Tallahassee to take on Minnesota on Monday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The Seminoles have lost eight straight in the challenge with the last win coming over Minnesota in 2007.

After winning just eight games all of last season, Minnesota is off to a 6-0 start this season. The two most notable victories thus far for the Golden Gophers are against St. John’s and Arkansas. Minnesota defeated FSU in the NIT semifinals in April 2014 by a 64-61 score in overtime in the last meeting between the schools. The Golden Gophers have won the last three in the series.

The Match-Up

Who: Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-0) at No. 25 Florida State Seminoles (5-1)
What: ACC/Big Ten Challenge
When: Monday, Nov. 28 at 7 p.m. EST (ESPNU)
Where: Donald L. Tucker Civic Center in Tallahassee, FL

Key Players

For Minnesota: Freshman guard Amir Coffey leads Minnesota, averaging nearly 16 points per game on 53 percent shooting. Guards Dupree McBrayer and Nate Mason are each averaging better than 12 points per game while Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch have been solid down low. The two are combining to average more than 20 points and 15 rebounds.

For Florida State: Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac have combined to average 33.5 points per game this season. Bacon is shooting 52 percent from the field while Isaac’s percentage is above 60. Both are shooting nearly 50 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. Xavier Rathan-Mayes averages nearly 10 points and leads the team with five assists per game. Terance Mann and Trent Forrest have done just about everything for the Seminoles this season.

What to Watch For

3-point shooting: After allowing Temple to shoot lights out in a Thanksgiving day loss, the Seminoles did a much better job defending Illinois beyond the arc their last time out. The Fighting Illini shot just 5-for-22 in Friday’s 72-61 FSU victory. Minnesota is averaging more than six makes from 3-point land this season, but shooting just 33 percent.

C.J. Walker: Freshman guard C.J. Walker is coming off the best game of his very young FSU career. In Friday’s victory over Illinois, Walker scored 13 points and was 2-for-2 from deep. He was a big reason why FSU was able to take a first half lead and seems to provide a spark off the bench in place of starter Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Rebounding: After dominating the competition through four games, FSU has been outrebounded on the glass in consecutive games. Temple held a 36-30 advantage over the Seminoles on Thursday and Illinois outrebounded FSU 41-33 on Friday. Thanks largely to Murphy and Lynch, the Gophers rank in the top 50 nationally in rebounding. They’ll match up with a very big FSU lineup that includes 7-4 Christ Koumadje and 7-1 Michael Ojo.

Amir Coffey: Tall, talented skill players will be all over the court Monday night. On the FSU side, it’s Bacon and Isaac, but Minnesota’s Amir Coffey is really, really good. Coffey is not only averaging nearly 16 points per game, but is a walking mismatch at 6-8 with the ability to score inside or out. Coffey, a freshman, has scored in double-figures in each game this season including 30 in a 92-86 win over St. John’s. The Seminoles have really struggled with long players who can play on the perimeter and Coffey should provide a real challenge.

Number to Pay Attention To

10.75: That’s the average margin of defeat Florida State has fell by in each of its last eight losses in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Only three of the eight contests have been decided by single digits with last season’s 78-75 overtime loss at Iowa being the closest.

Mike Ferguson is the editor of The Daily Nole. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson

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