The last time the Gophers played Indiana, they were coming off a three-game winning streak in the Big Ten, were ranked No. 8 in the country and had a world of chances in front of them.
How long ago does that feel?
I had a radio host ask me today whether the Gophers could draw motivation from their second half of that game – when they barged back from a 23-point deficit at halftime to come within a single possession of the Hoosiers before losing 88-81 at Indiana.
But while that was a great surge of energy, and could be used as a building block if the Gophers continued to show some semblance of the team before that, as it is I don’t think Minnesota, in facing No. 1 Indiana tonight, can draw back that far for inspiration.
Since then, the Gophers have hit the 60-point mark in just three of 10 games – not once in the last five – while finishing in the 40s three times.
In Minnesota’s last five games, they’ve shot a combined 35.3 percent from the field and 23.7 percent from 3-point range.
In the last two games, the Gophers have been outscored by a total of 47 points, turned the ball over a combined 41 times and made just a combined 31 field goal attempts.
In other words, things have gone to [heck]. I’m tired of writing about it; you’re likely tired of reading it.
If the Gophers look back on the past for inspiration, they risk vastly overlooking and under-appreciating the depth of those concerns. It’s looked as if that’s the case, especially in the last two games, when the Gophers have approached important situations with lackluster demeanors and no sense of urgency.
The Gophers have tried different things to breathe the old life back into the season – from dancing around the locker room and loosening up, to tough practices, to local sports psychologist Rick Aberman speaking to the group over the weekend.
Can any of it transfer onto the court? Or is the positive part of the season over?
The Gophers are running out of chances to find out after tonight.
If the Gophers win tonight, they are most likely tucked safely into the NCAA tournament.
If they don’t, they are subject to pitfalls – say at Nebraska – ahead.
It’s that simple.
Just a few other notes on tonight’s game:
- Coach Tubby Smith said yesterday that Rodney Williams would definitely be starting tonight vs. Indiana. However, earlier Monday morning, he also hinted there was a chance Elliott Eliason could start as well. Technically they both could start -- in a larger lineup, minus a guard, but a team source said Tuesday afternoon this wouldn’t happen tonight.
- Joe Coleman has struggled the most of any starter recently, shooting a combined 5-for-21 (23.8 percent) from the field in the last four games.
- It’s surprised me some that with the team struggling as they have, the Gophers haven’t attempted to change up the lineup in any way.
- The Hoosiers have the No. 2 scoring offense in the country (82.5 ppg) and the best scoring margin in DI (21.3). Paired with the Gophers’ recent defensive struggles, it’s not a great combination.
*Watch tonight’s game on ESPN.
*Listen to tonight’s game live on 1500-a.m.
*In today’s Star Tribune: Victor Oladipo has whatever it takes.
*More on tonight’s matchup here.
*This week’s aMAILia BAG.
*Also on the blog: The Gophers will (almost surely) make the tournament.
*A look at the Gophers’ substitutions in context.