THE STORY: Minnesota has won five in a row and will look to make it six when it hosts North Dakota State Thursday at Williams Arena. Julian Welch had a team-high 15 points and four assists in Minnesota’s 76-56 victory overCentral Michigan on Dec. 13, its last time out. Minnesota is one of four Big Ten schools with 11 wins. Meanwhile, North Dakota State comes in off a 92-50 win over Mayville State. North Dakota State is off to its best start since the 2000-01 season. The Gophers hold a 25-2 advantage in the all-time series, including a 84-65 victory in 2010.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, Gopher All Access
Radio: 6:30/7:00, KRDS 95.5 FM
ABOUT NORTH DAKOTA STATE (8-2, 1-1 Summit): Four players average double-figures for North Dakota State, including Taylor Braun, who averages a team-high 14 points and is second in rebounding with six per game. As a team, the Bison are efficient from the field, converting on 49 percent of their field-goal attempts. North Dakota State has scored 70 or more points seven times and is undefeated when reaching the 60-point mark. Senior Eric Carlson, who missed the first nine games with a broken jaw, will make his second appearance of the season and totaled four points and nine rebounds in the win over Mayville State.
ABOUT MINNESOTA (11-1): Since losing its leading scorer and rebounder, Trevor Mbakwe, to a season-ending injury on Nov. 27 against Dayton, Minnesota has rattled off five straight victories. Julian Welch, a junior guard, has carried the load offensively, which has helped replace the 14 points and nine rebounds that Mbakwe averaged prior to his injury. Welch is averaging 10.3 points and has scored 15 or more in four of the last five games for theGophers, who are playing their final non-conference game before beginning Big Ten play. Minnesota opens conference play at Illinois on Dec. 27.
1. Minnesota has won eight straight over North Dakota State.
2. North Dakota State has the nation’s 30th ranked 3-point defense, holding opponents to 27 percent shooting from 3-point range.
3. Since Mbakwe’s injury, Minnesota has scored more than 70 points once. Before the injury, the Gophers scored more than 70 in four of six games.