Gophers coach Richard Pitino knew his team had no business looking ahead to a potential second-round matchup with Ohio State in the Big Ten tournament this week in Indianapolis.
After all, the Gophers had lost seven straight games entering Wednesday's opening round, but the talk quickly shifted to the next opponent after a 51-46 win against Northwestern.
Pitino and his players respect the No. 5-seeded Buckeyes, but they're also confident since they won going away 77-60 against them on Jan. 3 at Williams Arena.
"We had a great game against them earlier, but this is a new season right now," point guard Marcus Carr said. "We're obviously two different teams, but we're going to go out to look to execute and do the same thing — get the same result."
Carr was the Buckeye killer last season. He had 35 points against them in a victory at the Barn – and 23 points with the game-deciding three in the win in Columbus last year.
In the last meeting, Carr took a back seat to 7-footer Liam Robbins, who had 27 points, 14 rebounds, five blocks and four assists in the one-sided affair.
The Gophers might not have seen their season collapse if Robbins continued to play at that level, but he has missed the past five games with a sprained left ankle. His status for Thursday's game is uncertain.
"I don't know about Liam," Pitino said. "I guess we'll kind of see tomorrow. He was terrific in that [last Ohio State game]. That was his best game of the year by far. He was the difference maker."
Pitino's defense took a hit this season with injuries to Robbins and starting guard Gabe Kalscheur, who is out with a broken finger. But the Gophers stole the win down the stretch Wednesday with clutch defense and rebounding.
Frontcourt starters Eric Curry and Brandon Johnson combined for just nine points on 3-for-13 shooting, but they had 22 rebounds, four steals and two blocks.
"This team with Liam out and Gabe out had not guarded well at all," Pitino said.
"We had not had a defensive identity, but that was probably the change. We got gritty. We got uncomfortable. We got stops and got the rebound."