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Point-guard duel highlights Minnesota-Michigan matchup


Two high-scoring offenses will collide Thursday night as resurgent Minnesota visits reeling Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich., as the schools return to their Big Ten Conference schedules.

Minnesota (10-3, 1-1 Big Ten) has won five games in a row, the last four blowout victories over lesser-quality nonconference opponents.

Meanwhile, Michigan (6-7, 1-1) has lost five of its past seven — four setbacks to teams likely to make the NCAA Tournament field, but the last of the defeats was an 87-76 decision against visiting McNeese State. The game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.

“There were some passes that we tried, thought the guys were open by making cross-court passes that led to turnovers,” Wolverines coach Juwan Howard said after the loss. “Defensively, they brought the juice, and we didn’t.”

The Golden Gophers are coming off an 80-62 win over Maine in which five Minnesota players scored in double figures and two more finished with eight points apiece.

Both teams can score in bulk: Michigan averages 83.2 points per game (35th best in the nation), while Minnesota is scoring 80.5 (63rd).

“We are going to be good offensively, but can we learn to rely on our defense?” Golden Gophers coach Ben Johnson said. “At the end of the day, you have to win with your defense for the next 2 1/2 months.”

The game will feature a duel of two dynamic 5-foot-11 point guards: Michigan’s Dug McDaniel (19.0 points, 5.0 assists per game) and Minnesota’s Elijah Hawkins (8.3 points, 7.8 assists).

Minnesota benefits from the return of leading scorer Dawson Garcia, a 6-foot-11 forward who averages 17.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He returned for the Golden Gophers’ 80-62 win over Maine on Friday after missing three games due to a Dec. 6 ankle injury.

Guards Mike Mitchell Jr. and Cam Christie are each averaging 11.3 points per game for Minnesota, while graduate forward Olivier Nkamhoua is Michigan’s second scoring option with 17.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.

Michigan leads the all-time series between the schools 94-63 and beat Minnesota last season at home and on the road in blowout wins.

–Field Level Media

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