The Gophers basketball team won't be thanking Michigan State when it plays in East Lansing Wednesday in the second meeting in the last five games.
But Minnesota's 75-74 overtime loss to the Spartans in the Big Ten opener Dec. 27 was a wakeup call. The 24th-ranked Gophers (15-2) used the sting from that defeat to win three straight conference games to get into a four-way tie for first place in the Big Ten with Michigan State, Purdue and Nebraska at 3-1.
In the rematch between the two teams, the Gophers are looking for revenge and to show how much they've grown since the conference-opening loss to the Spartans.
"A lot of our teammates feel that we personally need to pay them back," Gophers junior center Reggie Lynch said. "But obviously we don't want to think of it as just a revenge game. We just want to execute the way we would any game. We want to learn from our mistakes from the last game."
Lynch struggled with only three points and three rebounds in 11 minutes before fouling out against Michigan State at home. That motivated him to raise his level of play, averaging 10.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and three blocks in the next three games in wins against Purdue, Northwestern and Ohio State.
Spartans freshman Nick Ward had 22 points and 10 rebounds to dominate his first game against Minnesota, partly because Lynch was in foul trouble. Lynch is looking forward to matching up with the 6-foot-8, 260-pound Ward a second time.
“That wasn’t my best game as most people who watched the game saw,” Lynch said. “I know that Nick Ward is a very good player. The same as how I prepared for the last game (against Ohio State 7-footer Trevor Thompson), I need to prepare for what he brought to the game we played. Staying out of foul trouble and being able to stay on the court will probably take care of that.”
Curry injury update: Pitino said freshman Eric Curry should be able to play Wednesday at Michigan State.
The 6-foot-9 forward suffered a bruised heel and was limited to 12 minutes in Sunday’s win against Ohio State. He went scoreless, but Curry still contributed three rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“I don’t think he’s going to be 100 percent,” Pitino said. “We’ll monitor it during practice. He was good in the first half. He was doing well. He had that block, which was a very impressive block. You could tell halftime sitting bothered him a little bit. Hopefully, he’s good to go.”
Bridges back: Spartans freshman Miles Bridges was out with an ankle injury the last time his team played the Gophers, but he's been back in the lineup the last two games.
Bridges, a high-flying 6-7 forward and former McDonald's All-American, was averaging a team-best 16.6 points and 8.8 rebounds in the first eight games this season. He had just 10 points combined against in a win against Rutgers and loss to Penn State since his return.
"I don't think he was 100 percent against Penn State," Pitino said. "Obviously as time passes, he'll get back into the flow of things. You can tell their flow wasn't as good with him in yet. He's so good that you've got to do things through him. So I know they'll get better. Chemistry will get better. He's a terrific player."