After losing four of their past six Big Ten games, there is no doubt the Gophers men's basketball team needed the 58-53 overtime victory over No. 20 Wisconsin on Thursday to help the players regain some of the confidence they had when the team started the season 15-1 and 3-0 in conference play.
And sophomore Joe Coleman, who sank two free throws to send the game into overtime, needed some good things to happen for him, too. Coleman scored 29 points in an 84-67 victory over Illinois on Jan. 9, then scored 11 in an 88-81 loss to Indiana three days later, but he averaged only 6.3 points per game in the next seven games while playing on a bad ankle.
He had four points against the Badgers on Thursday until he made the big free throws. He also contributed seven big rebounds.
The key player was sophomore guard Andre Hollins, who hit a three-pointer with 3:40 left in OT to give the Gophers a lead they never gave up. He led all scorers with 21 points.
"My teammates did a great job setting screens for me and when I came open, I drew two defenders and that left Rodney [Williams] and Trevor [Mbakwe] open to grab rebounds," Hollins said. "I have to put the ball up because I trust my teammates to get the rebound if I miss."
And what was that motion you made walking off the floor after the game? "It was a Valentine's Day kiss to the fans," Hollins said.
"Joe made the biggest [free throws] of the night and he set the mood, and we were able to make about six or eight down the stretch," said Mbakwe, who finished with eight points and six rebounds.
For Williams, who held his bad shoulder throughout the game, it was his last time playing against the Badgers in the Barn. He scored 10 points and added five rebounds.
About his shoulder, he said: "It's pretty good, a little sore right now, but I'll be back in here tomorrow for treatment and just keep working on it and getting better."
Williams said he is sure the Gophers' good performance against the Badgers will carry over to their game at Iowa on Sunday.
The Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority on Friday will name the construction company that will build the Vikings stadium at their special meeting and, if my sources are correct, the only local contractor to bid, Mortenson Construction of Minneapolis will get the nod. The other two contractors who bid for the job were Hunt Construction out of Arizona and Skanska AB, a Swedish-based company.
Mortenson was ranked 19th in the top 400 contractors in the United States by Engineering News-Record in 2012, and the company has built every major sports stadium in the Twin Cities since the 1980s. They have built Target Center, Xcel Energy Center, TCF Bank Stadium and Target Field, and now it appears they will be working on the new Vikings stadium.
Mortenson has also built stadiums across the country including the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.; the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.; and the Pepsi Center and Coors Field in Denver.
Jerry Burns, the Vikings head coach when the team acquired Cris Carter in 1990 on waivers from the Eagles, described the new member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame as not only the best receiver to ever play with the Vikings, but one of the greatest receivers to play in the NFL.
"All I know is that anytime we were looking for a wide receiver, we [made] damn sure that we got the ball to him," said Burns, who also called the plays when he was coach. "We always threw to Cris Carter. He was the best sideline receiver I have ever seen. He handled that ball going out of bounds and keeping his feet in bounds and controlling the ball as good or better than any receiver I've ever seen."
Burns recalled that the Vikings were able to get Carter from the Eagles for a $100 waiver claim.
Carter talked about how emotional the days have been since he was told that he would be entering the Hall of Fame.
"Today is the first day I haven't cried since I got in a week and a half ago," he said. "To me it is overwhelming. It's even bigger than you ever imagined, even when people tell you you're a finalist, the magnitude of getting in is bigger and I think that while we do play football, we are human beings. When something like this happens in your life, this is rarer than a once in a lifetime. This is a once a generation, once a century for me."
Wheelock Whitney, one of the owners of the Vikings when Carter joined the team, said the wide receiver had some drug and alcohol problems that needed addressing when he joined the team. Vikings officials were able to get Carter into treatment, which allowed him to achieve his full potential as a player.
"I spent a lot of years of my life working in the field of alcoholism and drug addiction and Cris needed help, and he got the help he needed from the Vikings," Whitney said. "I'm just so thrilled for him. I'm glad to be alive to see him in the Hall of Fame, and I'm glad you're alive to see him get in the Hall of Fame."
• The Gophers wrestling team lost to Iowa 16-15 on Jan. 26, but they could get another shot at the Hawkeyes on Feb. 22-23 when Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio State and four other outstanding squads will be at Williams Arena for the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals.
• The Kansas City Star reported last week that former Vikings coach Brad Childress still might join Andy Reid's Chiefs staff as an offensive assistant. Reid hired Doug Pederson to be his offensive coordinator, but it will be his first year as a coordinator after being Reid's quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia. Childress could help Pederson in running the offense. ... Former Vikings coach Mike Tice is still looking for a position after being fired as Bears offensive coordinator last month.
• Riley Dearring, the Minnetonka senior guard who committed to Wisconsin this year, is leading the Skippers, ranked No. 6 in Class 4A, in scoring at 17.7 points per game.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org