Young leader nears records

by Adam Fink

Kris Humphries has been slowly etching himself into Minnesota’s men’s basketball’s record book all season.

Heading into the final week of the conference season, Humphries is in position to put his name at the top of the Big Ten’s scoring and rebounding chart.

The freshman is vying to become the first rookie – and fifth player – to lead the conference in both statistics.

Humphries is averaging 20.7 points in Big Ten action. Wisconsin’s Devin Harris – who scored 16 points against Purdue on Sunday – also averages 20.7 points. The duo has alternated between leading the league in scoring five times in the past three weeks.

Overall, Humphries averages 22 points per game. In addition, the Chaska, Minn., native leads the Big Ten in rebounding at 9.6 caroms per game.

“He has been the focal point to our offense,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said last weekend.

Humphries will likely finish the season atop the rebounding column. The nearest competitor is Iowa’s Greg Brunner at 8.1 rebounds per game.

The scoring difference could be in the amount of games each player has remaining.

Wisconsin has two games left, giving Harris two opportunities to boost his average. Minnesota (10-17, 2-13 Big Ten) has one – Saturday against Penn State – and isn’t certain if Humphries will play.

The forward did not play against Iowa on Saturday because of a right ankle injury.

“His status will be updated later in the week,” Gophers assistant coach Mike Peterson said. “Our training staff does all of that. We just have to wait.”

The last Minnesota player to lead the league in scoring was Quincy Lewis in 1999.

Three fight for title

While the Gophers will finish in last place in the Big Ten, the top of the conference isn’t quite as clear.

Michigan State (12-3 Big Ten), Illinois (11-3) and Wisconsin (10-4) all remain in the hunt.

Without a doubt, the deciding game is tonight.

The Spartans host the Badgers in Michigan State’s final conference game of the season.

“We put ourselves in a position where we have an opportunity of a lifetime to be home and playing for a share of the Big Ten championship,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “And yet we might be playing a team that is playing their best basketball of the season.”

The Badgers are coming off an 82-46 rout of Purdue on Sunday. However, Michigan State is also playing well after beating the Lions last Saturday.

“There is a certain amount of confidence you start to develop and they are playing with it right now,” Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan said.

If Michigan State wins, it will clinch at least a share of the conference crown and knock the Badgers out of the race.

Illinois has won a share of the Big Ten title two of the last three seasons and can repeat depending on how the Spartans fare.

However, Illinois plays its final two games on the road and one slip could cost it an outright or partial conference title. In addition, Illinois did not lose in February.

“We continue to tell our players we can’t worry about what everyone else is doing,” Illinois’ Bruce Weber said. “It is down to two games and if we win, we will get a share of the Big Ten title.”