11-seed Minnesota will meet with 6-seed Ohio State at the United Center in Chicago at 7:30 p.m. tonight. Watch the game on ESPN2 or listen live on 1500-a.m.
Five things to watch as the Gophers try to build off Wednesday's win:
Russell. Last time around, it was a tale of two halves vs. the eventual Big Ten Freshman of the Year. D'Angelo Russell dropped 25 on Minnesota in the first half, after being guarded by senior Andre Hollins but was held to just two points in the second, when DeAndre Mathieu and Nate Mason mostly switched off on him. Expect to see a dueling effort once again tonight as the Gophers try to contain a player that led the league with 20.3 points a game in Big Ten play.
Face-palm plays. The Gophers have had plenty of them this year, but the ones that are floating back into the cranium probably have a lot to do with Minnesota's last outing vs. Ohio State. That game, lost 74-72 in overtime, featured a missed potentially game-winning free throw by freshman Nate Mason at the end of regulation and a broken-down play and Mathieu turnover at the end of overtime. Minnesota has plenty of those moments to look back on over the course of a season that included eight losses by six points or fewer -- the Gophers don't want the year to end on another one.
Hey, Hollins. Minnesota senior guard Andre Hollins is scoreless in the last 66 minutes, dating back to Sunday's loss to Penn State at home. Not exactly the presence teams look for from their leader vs. the two worst squads in the conference. Coach Richard Pitino said he wants to see his veteran try driving more and getting to the line when his shot isn't falling. Hollins needs to continue to try to get involved, too, in those times. Last night after going O-fer in the first, took just one shot in the second. "That's not real good," Pitino said. "I wish I had the answer. I'll tell you what I don't like, I don't like that he's not getting to the foul line."
Joey King dominance. In the last two games, King has put up 39 points and 10 three-pointers. The Gophers can't rely on that kind of production, but it really saved their behinds last night and nearly did so vs. Penn State. King is suddenly using his shot-fake effectively and shooting as well as he has all year. The confidence that two performances like that breed a confidence that is as beneficial as anything. Another performance like that tonight, along with the output Minnesota lacked from seniors Hollins and Mo Walker last night, and the Gophers have a chance to advance again.
Defensive rebounding. The Gophers got much better in the second half last night after allowing Rutgers to grab ten rebounds on the offensive glass in the first half. Mathieu, in particular, showed a lot of aggressiveness in going after long rebounds, finishing with six. That effort needs to get better tonight with the Buckeyes pulling down 34.1 percent of available offensive rebounds -- which ranks 79th nationally. Giving a team like Rutgers 15 second-chance points is forgivable because the Scarlett Knights struggle to score in other ways. But against an offense like Ohio State's, it could be the straw that breaks the camel's (Gopher's) back.