Gameday preview: Northwestern at Gophers basketball

  • Updated: January 31, 2014 - 11:50 PM

u men gameday

1 P.M. VS. Northwestern • williams ARENA • BTN, 1500-AM

Gophers at a glance: The Gophers can’t quite seem to gets their legs. They followed home victories over Ohio State and Wisconsin with a letdown, most recently Sunday’s road trip to Nebraska, where the Gophers (15-6, 4-4 Big Ten) allowed the Cornhuskers to shoot 50 percent from both the floor and three-point range in an 82-78 loss. It doesn’t help that Andre Hollins will miss his third consecutive game with a sprained ankle. The star guard’s replacement in the lineup, Malik Smith, showed at Nebraska that he was more than ready to take the next step, converting eight of 12 three-point shots (tying Blake Hoffarber for the school record for most three-pointers) and finishing with 29 points. Unfortunately for the Gophers, the rest of the offense was stagnant. Only one other player, DeAndre Mathieu, finished with double-digit scoring, and he contributed to the loss in other ways — coughing up nine turnovers after Nebraska decided to double-team him for the full 40 minutes. … Saturday’s matchup marks the first meeting between the only two first-year coaches in the conference.

Northwestern at a glance: Wildcats fans can only look at the start to the Big Ten season under new head coach Chris Collins as a resounding success. Drew Crawford leads the Wildcats (11-11, 4-5) with 16.2 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, but the team’s scoring has had little to do with its early success. In fact, Northwestern has the worst offense in the league (and it’s ranked a stunning 316th in the nation), but the Wildcats have been able to overcome that on a consistent basis with their solid, fundamental defense. Most recently, that was at No. 14 Wisconsin on Wednesday when Northwestern held the stunned Badgers to 26.3 percent shooting to win at the Kohl Center for the first time ever. Collins’ stingy man-to-man defense has earned Northwestern the best effective field-goal percentage defense in the league, and the Wildcats have contained opponents to only 29.7 percent of their three-point attempts and 43.9 percent of their two-point attempts, second- and third-best in the Big Ten, respectively.

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