Gophers still searching for answers heading into Big Ten hoops finale

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 9, 2013 - 9:04 AM

The Gophers have dealt poorly with success and reacted negatively to failure, but there’s one more regular-season chance to learn.


Coach Tubby Smith has tinkered with his starting lineup lately, a sign of dissatisfaction: “We haven’t really reached our potential.


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When Trevor Mbakwe says it, he doesn’t hesitate, and he makes sure to let people know what they heard wasn’t a mistake.

“We still feel that we’re one of the best” teams in the country, Mbakwe said of his Gophers on Friday. “We still believe.”

Indeed, Minnesota has shown flashes of undeniable talent and competitiveness — particularly with its win over then-No. 1 Indiana a week and a half ago. But in another vein, the Gophers have shown a much more worrisome side, one that falls apart under pressure and allows both positive and negative emotions to overcome them.

While the Gophers — who have been gliding off early season success and five wins against ranked opponents — look to have a spot in the NCAA tournament in hand, their last game of the regular season against Purdue on Saturday and their performance in the Big Ten tournament will have an enormous impact on what, if any, momentum they carry with them.

After the Gophers’ three consecutive wins to start the Big Ten season, there was talk of them competing for the league title. Even coming into this week, it looked like the Gophers had a pretty solid hold on the No. 6 seed in the conference tournament. But after losing to Nebraska — while Iowa beat Illinois — things are looking substantially more precarious. If the Gophers don’t beat the Boilermakers on Saturday, they could be doomed to the No. 9 seed in the conference tournament, a destination that seemed unthinkable two months ago.

“All these games from here on out are important in terms of seeding, and we know that,” Austin Hollins said. “It’s a matter of playing hard because it’s not going to get any easier. Purdue is a really aggressive team, Nebraska has played us really aggressively, and from here on out, in the Big Ten, they’re not going to back down.”

It doesn’t help that the Gophers have some significant issues of their own. While the team seems to have gotten a grip on its most predominant flaw, turnovers — accumulating 10 or fewer in each of the past three games — other concerns are cropping up. The Gophers have managed to shoot just 21.5 percent from three-point range over the past four games and made just 38 percent of their attempts from the field at Nebraska. Free throws have also been cringe-worthy, with Minnesota recording an ugly 54 percent success rate from the stripe in the past two games.

“That’s what it takes to win basketball games, perfecting the little things,” Andre Hollins said. “That day, we didn’t perfect our free throws.”

At the same time, coach Tubby Smith has been toying with the starting lineup — a level of experimentation that is rare and concerning considering that it is March. Against Nebraska, Smith discarded the starting five that beat No. 1 Indiana (he hadn’t felt the need to shake things up at all after two consecutive blowouts).

Instead, he opted for the same senior night tribute lineup — Julian Welch and Andre Ingram along with Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Austin Hollins — that worked against lowly Penn State but didn’t include one of his most dynamic scorers, Andre Hollins.

“We didn’t win, so it didn’t work,” Smith said after the Nebraska game. “It’s not like we’ve got an offensive juggernaut with whoever we put in the game. I mean, they’re struggling to score.”

Smith said on Friday that he would “probably” go back to the original five against Purdue — Joe Coleman and Andre Hollins replacing Welch and Ingram — but the head coach didn’t want to make any promises. Because while Mbakwe and the players might look at the Gophers as one of the best teams in the nation, it’s abundantly clear from Smith’s tone that he’s as frustrated as ever.

“We haven’t really reached our potential,” he said. Referring to the Nebraska game, he noted, “If we get five free throws, I’m in a different mood. We’re all in a different mood. But we didn’t. We lost.”

And with just one regular-season game left and the hot-and-cold squad still in flux, it’s hard not to describe his team with the same word: lost.

  • GOPHERS men’s basketball AT PURDUE

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Cincinnati 0 Bottom 7th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Minnesota 0 Top 6th Inning
Baltimore 8
NY Yankees 0 Top 7th Inning
Toronto 1
Philadelphia 1 Bottom 7th Inning
NY Mets 1
Boston 8 Top 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 1
Miami 0 Bottom 4th Inning
Atlanta 0
Cleveland 2 Top 3rd Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Chicago WSox 1
Texas 1 Top 3rd Inning
Houston 1
Chicago Cubs 1 Top 3rd Inning
St. Louis 2
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 28 3rd Qtr
Connecticut 7
(6) Jacksonville St 0 2nd Qtr 2:04
(8) Michigan State 35
Bowling Green 0 2nd Qtr 8:09
Western Ky 21
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Colorado State 8:00 PM
UNLV 9:30 PM
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
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
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
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
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
(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
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Houston 0 1st Half 28:00
Sporting Kansas City 0
Ottawa 3
Montreal 8
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Minnesota 9:00 PM
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Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
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




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