Season's ups and downs have U basketball ready for smooth sailing

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 2, 2013 - 8:10 AM
hide

Maverick Ahanmisi waved his arms for more crowd noise after scoring against Indiana

Photo: Kyndell Harkness, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Seconds after the Gophers' potentially season-changing win over No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday, coach Tubby Smith stepped away from the hordes of fans pouring onto the court and looked down the microphone of ESPN sideline reporter Samantha Ponder as if it were a snake waiting to bite him.

The victory represented the best the Gophers have played all season. But Smith -- seemingly as baffled as anyone about Minnesota's up-and-down play -- looked more weary than anything as he shook the hand of Hoosiers coach Tom Crean and made his way through his postgame interviews.

So with the Gophers (19-9, 7-8 in the Big Ten) heading into what looks on paper to be a much easier game against Penn State (9-18, 1-14) on Saturday, Smith has taken it as his job to try to smooth the wave rather than ride it.

Waves, he's found, are dangerous for this bunch.

"I've been concerned about the ebb and flow of this group ever since the season started," Smith said after Tuesday's win, in response to a question about momentum. A day later, he echoed the same message.

"As I've said before -- never get too high, never get too low," Smith said. "When you get too high, you want to create that false sense of accomplishment, and when you get too low, you try to find ways to build yourself back up, and that can give you a false sense as well. So you can't lie to yourself about what's going on."

Said senior Rodney Williams: "When we get big wins, we get really excited, we get high on ourselves, and sometimes we kind of stay in the past. We stay with that last game."

Clearly, the Gophers' woes are not solved by a single big win. Before that came eight losses in 11 games, in a season that has fallen short of early expectations. After the win over the Badgers on Feb. 14, a video surfaced of the Gophers' postgame dancing in the locker room -- led by a solo breakdown by Smith himself. But consecutive losses by a total of 47 points at Iowa and Ohio State followed, bookended by some despondent locker rooms, players said.

"When you start out the game so well and you lose the lead all the time, it's kind of hard to stay positive," Williams said. "We'd come into the locker room at halftime, and guys would just be down on themselves."

With frustrated fans taking to Twitter to air their chagrin, many of the players have made the decision to avoid the social media giant for a while, although a few of them did share quick thoughts after the Indiana game.

Smith brought in a sports psychologist to talk with his players before that game, took them to church together on Sunday and the team got together privately to speak frankly and share thoughts on how to turn things around.

After Tuesday, there was no dancing -- with Williams jokingly calling it bad luck. But there was plenty of joy among the players, and rightfully so. Such a win can function as a springboard heading into the Big Ten tournament, especially with the Gophers' final three games -- against Penn State and at Nebraska and Purdue -- looking winnable. They won't take any of those games lightly, however, particularly after Penn State upset Michigan earlier this week.

In the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA tournament -- with the Gophers' berth in the latter on far more solid ground after beating Indiana -- anything can happen.

The problem with a wave is that it eventually crashes. The Gophers and Smith are hoping, instead, that they're at the start of a staircase.

"You want to put it behind you because we've got to move on from there, but at the same time it is something we want to propel forward on," Austin Hollins said. "We take that [Indiana] win and ... all the good things in there, and we want to take that into future games."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Toronto 104 FINAL
Indiana 91
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Detroit 95
Milwaukee 109 FINAL
Miami 102
Memphis 109 FINAL
Dallas 90
Chicago 88 4th Qtr 6:50
Golden State 93
Washington 95 4th Qtr 1:56
LA Lakers 90
NY Rangers 1 FINAL
NY Islanders 4
Arizona 3 FINAL(SO)
Philadelphia 4
Winnipeg 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Washington 3 FINAL
Columbus 4
Tampa Bay 2 FINAL
Carolina 4
Dallas 2 FINAL
Montreal 3
Detroit 5 FINAL
Florida 4
Colorado 3 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 4
Buffalo 1 FINAL
Calgary 4
Minnesota 2 FINAL
Edmonton 1
Anaheim 3 3rd Prd 1:41
Vancouver 0
Ball State 47 FINAL
Akron 59
Northern Ill 46 FINAL
Bowling Green 56
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Buffalo 77
Ohio 40 FINAL
Eastern Mich 76
Xavier 66 FINAL
Georgetown 53
Vanderbilt 62 FINAL
Georgia 70
West Virginia 65 FINAL
Kansas State 59
Central Mich 53 FINAL
Kent State 63
Saint Josephs 48 FINAL
La Salle 53
Nebraska 44 FINAL
Michigan 58
Miami-Ohio 65 FINAL
Toledo 70
Tulsa 62 FINAL
Tulane 55
George Washington 48 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 72
Pittsburgh 67 FINAL
Virginia Tech 70
Indiana State 78 FINAL
Evansville 89
Tabor College 53 FINAL
Oral Roberts 94
Florida 52 FINAL
Alabama 50
Tennessee 64 FINAL
Arkansas 69
Texas A&M 71 FINAL
Auburn 61
Baylor 53 FINAL
Oklahoma State 64
DePaul 0 Postponed
Providence 0
Michigan State 0 Postponed
Rutgers 0
Wyoming 44 FINAL
Utah State 56
Fresno State 47 FINAL
San Diego St 58
UNLV 67 FINAL
Nevada 62
SD Christian 54 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 79
Colorado State 58 2nd Half 10:05
Boise State 53
Temple 71 FINAL
UCF 54
Campbell 42 FINAL
Presbyterian 51
Coastal Carolina 65 FINAL
High Point 73
Gardner-Webb 49 FINAL
Radford 59
UNC-Asheville 58 FINAL
Liberty 62
Winthrop 63 FINAL
Longwood 62
Columbia International 33 FINAL
Charleston Southern 74
Tulane 63 FINAL
Houston 46
(3) Baylor 89 FINAL
TCU 67
Navy 49 FINAL
American Univ 59
Valparaiso 42 FINAL
Illinois-Chicago 60

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close