MADISON, WIS. — A good sign for the Gophers men's basketball team despite Sunday's 66-60 loss at Wisconsin was center Eric Curry back in the starting lineup after missing three games because of a left ankle injury.
The 6-9 sixth-year senior and team captain had been sidelined since a 71-69 loss Jan. 12 at Michigan State.
"I know how much I mean to the guys and how much they look at me," said Curry, who finished with eight points and six rebounds in 34 minutes. "I tried my hardest to get back on the court. It was frustrating to see them out there without me."
After suffering three major injuries in his career, Curry was averaging a career-best 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 28.3 minutes per game this season after delaying his opportunity to be a graduate assistant.
The Gophers relied on senior Charlie Daniels and freshman Treyton Thompson in his absence, but their combined production hadn't made up for Curry's physical toughness, low-post presence and veteran leadership.
"He's a huge part of our team," Gophers coach Ben Johnson said. "So to be able to get him back just defensively was a huge boost. He did a great job gutting it through and playing [34 minutes] today."
Daniels had averaged 2.7 points and 4.0 rebounds in his past three starts. Thompson averaged 7.6 points in the previous three games. But they were scoreless playing under 10 minutes combined off the bench against the No. 11 Badgers.
The Gophers were outrebounded by 26 in Thursday's 75-64 loss against Ohio State at home, including giving up 20 offensive boards.
Curry said Sunday that he wanted to play against the Buckeyes, but his ankle was just not ready to give the Gophers significant minutes.
In Big Ten play, Curry is averaging 10.2 points and 5.8 rebounds, including a career-high 19 points and seven rebounds at Michigan State.
Curry and the Gophers frontcourt will be tested Wednesday when Purdue comes to Williams Arena with 7-4, 290-pound Zach Edey and 6-10, 260-pound Trevion Williams in the post.
"I was still feeling pain, so that's why I chose not to play [Thursday]," Curry said. "Missing two weeks of basketball you're always going to lose some of that wind you used to have. Me getting my legs back under me the next couple weeks will help me get in the groove of things."