Gophers starting junior guard Gabe Kalscheur is expected to be sidelined 3-4 weeks after having surgery to repair a broken finger on his right shooting hand, Richard Pitino said Friday.

Kalscheur, who started all 88 games of his career until this week, suffered the hand injury in practice a day before Wednesday's 82-72 loss at Indiana.

The former DeLaSalle standout was averaging 9.2 points, 2.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 21 games this season. The 6-4 Kalscheur often defended the opposing team's best perimeter player throughout his career.

"Gabe is I think the best perimeter defender in the league," Pitino said. "When he gets hurt and he's out a month or whatever it is your team is going to hurt defensively. Or if Liam Robbins is hurt and doesn't have lift. That's going to hurt your team defensively. Other guys need to relish being in that role."

The earliest Kalscheur could return is for the Big Ten tournament scheduled March 10-14 in Indianapolis, but they hope to get another starter healthy sooner.

In another injury update Friday, Pitino said starting center Robbins' status with a "severely" sprained ankle is hopeful for Saturday vs. Illinois at Williams Arena.

Robbins, who averages 12.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks, was hobbled the last two games and combined for just eight points and five rebounds in losses at Maryland and Indiana.

The 7-foot junior hasn't been practicing since he sprained his ankle in the second half of Feb. 11 home win vs. Purdue. Robbins has been clearly limited physically in the last two games.

"Hopefully, he'll play," Pitino said about needing Robbins vs. Illinois' 7-footer Kofi Cockburn. "I would assume he'll play [Saturday]. I don't know if substantially he's a whole lot better. I don't know if two days is going to fix a severely sprained ankle, but he's fighting hard through it."

Freshman guard Jamal Mashburn Jr. had 19 points in his career first start Wednesday replacing Kalscheur. Sophomore Sam Freeman and senior Eric Curry rotated at center when Robbins dealt with foul trouble vs. Indiana.

Mashburn said his father, former NBA and Kentucky standout Jamal Mashburn Sr., will be in attendance for the first time to see the Gophers play Saturday vs. the Illini at the Barn.