The Gophers (6-16 overall,; 0-10 in the Big Ten) head to the greater Chicago area on Wednesday having dropped their last five by seven points or fewer.
But Minnesota’s Thursday opponent – Northwestern – provides a reminder of the stretch that came immediately prior to the Gophers’ seemingly improved play: a pair of 25-point losses that began with a 77-52 loss to the Wildcats at Williams Arena.
On Wednesday, coach Richard Pitino put the blame for that ugly blowout squarely on his own head.
“I did a horrible job preparing the guys for that game,” he said after watching tape of the Jan. 9 rout. “That was not a great game plan. I looked at [the film] and said ‘OK, what were we trying to do from an offensive standpoint?’ I thought defensively, we just had breakdowns. But from an offensive standpoint, I did not like what I gave the guys, so I’ve got to do a better job of that and put them in positions to succeed.”
Pitino didn’t point out anything that he specifically felt fell especially flat with the offense, but expressed frustration in the team’s ability to attack Northwestern’s defensive zone.
Once the struggles to convert became obvious, the coach said he thinks the players’ confidence drooped and they lost control. The Wildcats’ win was by the biggest margin ever at Minnesota, besting a 45-23 Northwestern victory in 1931.
“I thought the elements got to us a little bit,” Pitino said. “It’s tough to get embarrassed on your home court and we shut it down a little bit. We’ve learned from that.”