Familiar feeling for Gophers going into Hoosiers rematch

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 26, 2012 - 1:16 AM

Once again, their season is teetering on the brink, after a losing streak has knocked them off the NCAA tournament bubble.

hide

Gophers guard Maverick Ahanmisi put up a shot against Indiana in January. The Gophers' victory at Indiana provided the team with a shot in the arm, one it could use again going into the rematch at Williams Arena.

Photo: Darron Cummings, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Six weeks ago, the Gophers were drowning.

They had lost four in a row and were struggling to get over the hump, and things were looking pretty bleak.

Then they played Indiana.

Sound familiar?

"When we played them the first time, our backs were against a wall, and that's how it is now," junior guard Julian Welch said. "We're definitely looking to get a W under our belts. It's do or die time now."

In that first game at Indiana on Jan. 12, the Gophers pulled off a major upset over a team ranked in the top 10 at the time, a victory that spurred a three-game winning streak, put the team in the NCAA tournament conversation and inserted Tubby Smith in Coach of the Year chatter.

It changed the immediate course of the season, giving the Gophers a spark and some greatly needed confidence to build on. They tore past Penn State and Northwestern, and after a hard-fought loss to Michigan State, they took care of Illinois in overtime.

But six games and five losses later, things have slipped away once more, and the Gophers' recent play has pushed them to the brink of sure elimination from NCAA tournament at-large consideration. The surge seems long ago; instead, the Gophers again seem like they are drowning.

They have lost four in a row and are struggling to get over the hump, and things are looking pretty bleak.

Going into Sunday's game against Indiana, the Gophers are hoping they can get the same spark from the visiting Hoosiers, something Minnesota needs now even more than they did in early January.

"We need it bad," Smith said. "We need a whole lot of sparks. We need a fire. We need flames. We need a flamethrower on us at this point."

A key difference: In that first Hoosiers matchup, the Gophers still were searching for their identity -- trying to find the right players and the right style. Now, it seems the team is still looking for those things, but in the meantime, the Gophers have formed a tangible pattern.

It's not so much that the Gophers need to find an identity; rather, they need to change it.

Two characteristics that have plagued the Gophers all season is their inability to finish games and their lack of leadership -- with upperclassmen Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III inconsistent at times and often not able or not willing to pull the charge. There's a good chance the two issues are connected.

"I need Rodney and Ralph to make plays," Smith said. "They need to get more rebounds, they need to be more aggressive getting to the basket to get fouled. If that doesn't happen, we have a real dilemma."

Without that leading presence, the Gophers simply look like what they are, a young team that doesn't know how to finish opponents off. That appeared to be the case again against No. 6 Michigan State on Wednesday, a game the Gophers led most of the second half before collapsing at the finish for a 66-61 loss.

"[It's] just lapses," Welch said of the breakdowns the Gophers have had in stretches. "We're a young team. When something doesn't go right, we kind of put our heads down, so we kind of talked about that. We just need to be level-headed the entire time and we need to just not have so many ups and downs, highs and lows."

Incredibly, it appears the Gophers still have time to turn it around. They have three regular-season games remaining; after facing the No. 23 Hoosiers at Williams Arena, they travel to Kohl Center to take another crack at No. 16 Wisconsin, a team the Gophers took to overtime before losing 68-61 at home earlier this month.

"A mental spark is exactly what we need," Sampson said, "to kind of refresh everything, refocus and redirect yourselves and our energies to get these next couple of wins."

  • related content

  • U men gameday

    Saturday February 25, 2012

    Gophers at a glance: As much as the Gophers needed a spark in their last game against Indiana, they need it even more now. Wednesday's loss to Michigan State was...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Chicago Cubs 0 Bottom 1st Inning
Cincinnati 0
NY Yankees - H. Kuroda 12:08 PM
Detroit - K. Lobstein
Colorado - J. Lyles 2:45 PM
San Francisco - Y. Petit
Tampa Bay - J. Hellickson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Atlanta - M. Minor 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. Niese
Cleveland - C. Carrasco 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - J. Danks
Minnesota - T. Milone 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Guthrie
Texas - N. Tepesch 7:10 PM
Houston - C. McHugh
Oakland - S. Gray 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Atlanta 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 6:02 PM
ULM
Boise State 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pm
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How will the Gophers do in their football opener?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close