In its previous three games before facing the Gophers on Sunday, the Iowa men's basketball team had recorded a shocking 72-52 home victory over preseason Big Ten favorite Michigan State; won 64-63 at Indiana, and lost a 62-59 heartbreaker in overtime to a hot Wisconsin team, a game the Hawkeyes led most of the way.
On the other hand, the Gophers had lost four games in a row, the past two coming at home, including an ugly 71-62 loss Thursday to Illinois at Williams Arena.
Coach Tubby Smith had called out the players in no uncertain terms following Thursday's game. That included criticism of his favorite player on the team, senior co-captain Blake Hoffarber.
Well, reading the riot act apparently paid off, as the Gophers ended their four-game losing streak easily, beating Iowa 62-45 and making trip home from Iowa City a pleasant one. It also should give them confidence going into their game at Penn State on Thursday.
"I think our guys responded the right way," Smith said in the postgame news conference.
The Gophers were led by 24 points from Trevor Mbakwe, who finally was able to take real advantage of his size and strength under the basket. If he plays like that the rest of the way, this team should be able to play with anybody.
But the other big performer Sunday was 6-7 sophomore Rodney Williams, who had scored a total of 20 points over his previous five games combined and was another player from whom Smith demanded more. He responded with 13 points Sunday, including 11 in the first half, finally showing some of the potential that many had seen out of the former Cooper High School standout when they predicted he might be a first-round draft pick in the NBA someday soon. Williams scored six consecutive points in a 24-6 Gophers run to end the first half.
Williams, who entered the day averaging 6.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game, also had seven rebounds and five assists.
"Rodney Williams stepped up and had a solid game, probably one of his best games in a long time," Smith said. "We also got good play from our freshmen and that's a big help."
The game proved that Smith still can coach. I can't remember a team that's had as many distractions as this one. Losing Al Nolen, who scored 13 points in the Gophers' victory over Iowa at Williams Arena Jan. 16, was a blow nobody thought the team would overcome, not after the departure of Devoe Joseph to Oregon.
So don't give up yet. That was quite a victory Sunday, on the road against a team that had been playing very well of late.NFL revenue down
One reason NFL owners are talking about a lockout is that they claim they can't afford to keep giving the players 60 percent of revenue as they do now. As evidence, they point to the financial state of the Green Bay Packers, who as the only publicly held franchise have their financial information readily available.
According to a recent New York Times report, the Packers' operating profit fell some 71 percent, from $34.2 million in 2007 to $9.8 million in the year that ended last March 31. The most recent collective bargaining agreement started in 2007.
The big loss came about despite the fact that revenue jumped 18 percent during that period, to $257.9 million. The reason was that player payroll and other player-related expenses jumped from $110.7 million to $160.8 million.
While the Vikings don't release any figures, they were near the bottom in revenue for the same period, and the word is that without revenue sharing, they would have shown a loss.
Most people in the media are predicting a long lockout that will last into the start of the season, but I don't agree. I believe that at least half the owners have big debt with mortgages on their franchises and building and remodeling stadiums, and that those owners can't afford a lost season.Twins profit?
Twins CEO Jim Pohlad said that with the team's high payroll this year, expected to be about $115 million, that the franchise might not make any money this year. Pohlad said in the past that the team has spent about 52 percent of revenue on player salaries. But apparently the percentage will be higher this year. He expects interest in the team to be as high this year as it was last.
"I'm more worried where we will be 10 years from now than the present," Pohlad said.
Teams such as the Indians and Orioles, among others, were drawing 3 million-plus fans early in the lives of their new stadiums, but when those teams stopped winning, the fans stopped showing up.Jottings
• Apparently, the Vikings ownership is convinced the Metrodome roof will be fixed in time for the exhibition schedule in August, because the team sent a letter to season-ticket holders this past week with that information. The Vikings have asked the NFL to schedule their first two exhibition games on the road and their last two at home to give them more time to make sure the roof will be ready. Lester Bagley, Vikings vice president of public affairs, said the Metrodome management has been asked to hold an event in the building before the Vikings play their first exhibition to make sure the building is ready. ... According to the financial statements of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission, the operator of the Metrodome, the recommended budget for insurance for 2011 was $472,000. For some reason the 2010 total cost for insurance was $561,000.
• Vikings guards Steve Hutchinson and Anthony Herrera and cornerback Cedric Griffin are all in the Vikings training room and near ready to begin rehabilitation. All three ended the 2010 season on injured reserve.
• Timberwolves President Chris Wright said attendance is up about 1,500 per game this season.
• Former Bloomington Jefferson standout Cole Aldrich is back up with the Oklahoma City Thunder after being recalled from the Development League on Wednesday. He averaged 10.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 19 games with the Tulsa 66ers.
• Former Edina High School hockey standout Anders Lee is the second-leading scorer for Notre Dame in his freshman season with 37 points (19 goals, 18 assists) in 32 games. Hil-Murray product Ryan Guentzel, the son of former Gophers assistant coach Mike, is the Irish's third-leading scorer with 31 points (six goals, 25 assists). Nick Larson of Apple Valley has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists).
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org