Minnesota hosts Northwestern tonight at 8 p.m. at Williams Arena. Watch on Big Ten Network or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Four things to watch as Minnesota tries to rebound from a 90-71 loss at Indiana on Sunday:
Shooting, again. The Gophers defense was, well, less than effective vs. Indiana on Sunday, allowing 18 three-pointers, mostly out of the zone. I'm guessing we'll see more zone tonight against Northwestern, with Minnesota's mid-conference success coming not in small part to its success. But while Wildcats are no Indiana, they can shoot a little bit too. On the year, they currently rank fifth in the conference in shooting from downtown, making 35.8 percent of their attempts. Can Minnesota shut down Northwestern's long-ball hopes? If not, it could be a long two weeks.
DeAndre, revamped. Before Sunday night's game, senior point guard DeAndre Mathieu was deeply mired in a 9-for-42 (21.4 percent) shooting slump that spanned six games. After getting crushed by Indiana, Mathieu -- who had 12 points on 6-for-11 shooting -- called the bounceback bittersweet, but the Gophers will be better if the resurgence bleeds into a strong scoring stretch from the Knoxville native. Tonight, he'll have to prove he can do it in a much different setting.
Pace. Speaking of which, tonight's opponent couldn't bring much more different of a style. When Northwestern wins, it's usually a product of a defense that rebounds well and limits shots inside. Second-year coach Chris Collins also likes to slow it down and make teams execute in the half court. Northwestern plays a sluggish pace, averaging 61 possessions per game, which ranks 329th nationally. Minnesota will need to speed the Wildcats up in order to play its game.
Matchups. Northwestern, with two just two conference wins, doesn't have the reputation that some of Minnesota's recent opponents do. But the Wildcats do have talent. Redshirt junior Tre Demps and intriguing freshman point guard Bryant McIntosh aptly root the backcourt. McIntosh has a top-100 assist rate, but he also leads the team with 13.1 points and spells improvement for the future. Demps has the experience and is a 40.4 percent three-point shooter. Both will give Mathieu and fellow senior Andre Hollins plenty to deal with. Then there's the 7-foot, shot-blocking Alex Olah, who has five double-doubles on the year, ranking third in the Big Ten behind Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky and Michigan State's Branden Dawson.
Speaking of luck... Minnesota isn't the only one who has lost a lot of close games. Before Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa on Sunday, the Wildcats had lost ten straight, but six of those have come by eight points or fewer.