Gophers men ready for Northwestern matchup at the Barn


vs. Northwestern, Williams Arena, 1 p.m. Saturday

TV; radio: BTN; 100.3 FM

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Marcus Fuller's preview:

Opening bell: The Gophers (13-7, 4-5 Big Ten) picked up arguably their most important win so far this season last Saturday, ending a four-game losing streak by beating Penn State on the road. Not only did Minnesota erase a 14-point halftime deficit, they did it with big man Pharrel Payne injured. With a week in between games, Payne was able to rest his back issues enough to possibly return for a key home stretch. Northwestern (15-6, 6-4) is likely coming into the Barn fired up after its upset bid was spoiled at No. 2 Purdue in a 105-96 overtime loss Wednesday.

Watch him: In two games against mighty Purdue this season, Northwestern's backcourt duo of Boo Buie and Ty Berry has been sensational. They scored a combined 50 points in Wednesday's loss and 52 points in an overtime win in early December against Purdue at home.

Injuries: Payne's lingering back injury has made him questionable to play on the Big Ten's availability report for several games, which is likely again Saturday. He'll be a game-time decision.

Forecast: The Wildcats dominated the Gophers with a 20-point win in Evanston last year in their only meeting. Northwestern coach Chris Collins reached the NCAA tournament with his program last season for the first time since 2017. Gophers coach Ben Johnson sees Saturday's game and Tuesday's against Michigan State as opportunities to get his program on track for a possible postseason berth.

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