Coming off a humbling first loss by 27 points at Illinois, Richard Pitino and his Gophers basketball players know overlooking Sunday's final nonconference foe, St. Louis, would be foolish.
Forget that they play No. 3 Iowa next in Big Ten play.
"We have to have a short-term memory," junior Marcus Carr said. "We have to make sure we're ready for our next game."
The Billikens could be the best opponent Pitino and company have played at home so far this season, already with wins against LSU and North Carolina State this year.
There's a reason the Gophers (6-1) opened as underdogs against the defending Atlantic 10 champions.
"They've got talented guys for sure," Pitino said. "They've got some quality pieces who know their roles. They're terrific. This is an absolute huge challenge for us."
The Billikens (6-0) are a borderline Top 25 team. They're an eighth seed in early NCAA tournament bracket projections. They're 28th compared to Minnesota's 55th nationally in Ken Pomeroy's advanced stats rankings. They have more impressive victories this season.
St. Louis beat LSU on Nov. 28 without senior Hasahn French, a candidate for the Karl Malone Award given to the nation's top power forward. With French in the lineup Thursday, they overpowered North Carolina State 80-69, highlighted by a dominant 53-26 rebounding edge.
A four-guard starting lineup, alongside the 6-7, 240-pound French makes St. Louis a difficult matchup. Being undersized doesn't hurt the Billikens much. Not when 6-3 senior guard Jordan Goodwin averages 15 points and 11 rebounds. Not when Javonte Perkins (19.5 points), Gibson Jimerson (13.2) and Yuri Collins (7.3 assists) help Goodwin make up one of the best backcourts in the country.
The Billikens rank No. 1 in the Atlantic 10 in rebounding margin (plus-12), scoring (87.8), field goal percentage (52.7) and three-point shooting percentage (44.6).
St. Louis coach Travis Ford left Oklahoma State after the 2015-16 season and built this midmajor program into a contender. That same year, Pitino lost to Ford and the Cowboys in Sioux Falls, S.D. That was also the last time the Gophers suffered home losses to programs not from major conferences (Milwaukee, South Dakota and South Dakota State). They've been 31-0 in such games since 2016.
Gophers senior Brandon Johnson knows the Billikens, having beaten them two years ago when he played for Western Michigan. His former AAU teammate Demarius Jacobs is also a junior guard on the team.
"They're definitely a good team," Johnson said. "I played them my sophomore year at St. Louis. They were tough then, and they're tough now. So, I'm looking forward to it."
The Gophers are also eager to prove they can be more efficient. They rank last in the Big Ten in field goal percentage (42.0) and three-point percentage (28.5) and rebounding margin (minus-0.9).
It was easy to blame the humbling 92-65 defeat at No. 13 Illinois on failing to stop Illinois 7-footer Kofi Cockburn, who had 33 points. But the Gophers also shot 28% from the field, including 7-for-28 on three-pointers.
Pitino said he'd look into having players post up more, including his guards. The U's backcourt tandem of Carr and Both Gach combined for just 17 points on 3-for-22 shooting.
Tuesday's game completely changed after center Liam Robbins went to the bench with early foul trouble. The Gophers lost the rebounding battle 53-35 and were dominated 48-14 in points in the paint.
"We saw it, how far away we are from a physicality standpoint," Pitino said. "We didn't respond at Illinois. We broke too quickly. That's where toughness comes in. Rebounding is a byproduct to toughness. So, we better bring it [Sunday] night."