When: Saturday, Jan. 9 @ 1:30 p.m. CT
How: TV: BTN; Radio: ESPN 1500
Nothwestern over Minnesota, 75-71
- How will the absence of Northwestern center Alex Olah impact the game?
- Can Joey King provide another spark two games in a row?
- Will Jordan Murphy get back into the swing of things?
Well, things are certainly bottoming out nicely aren’t they? After a not-awful start to the season and an up-and down non-conference season, the Gophers find themselves 0-3 in the conference and losers of 7 of their last 8 games, with the lone victory coming against hapless Chicago State. And after a decent showing against then-#1 Michigan State, which very nearly resulted in a huge upset, the Gophers dropped a very winnable game against Penn State in a turnover-laden second half collapse that sealed their fate. Now the Gophers sit in the conference basement along with Nebraska, Illinois and Rutgers, battling for ultimate supremacy of the bottom.
Getting on the board in the win column for Richard Pitino is the ultimate goal right now, and it really doesn’t matter who it comes against. A team that traditionally has been what the doctor ordered comes to town, Northwestern, offering a reasonable shot at giving the Gophers their first victory.
But not so fast. The Wildcats come in at a spicy 13-3, and even though they’ve lost two straight (to Maryland and Ohio State), they ran through their non-conference slate pretty handily and already captured a win over Nebraska. Led by Bryant McIntosh, they feature four players averaging double figures and can score points quickly when things are falling right.
Evening things up, however, is the doubtfulness of Romanian Frankenstein, Alex Olah, Northwestern’s 7-0 center. He’s missed the last four games with a foot injury, which has caused problems for the Wildcat offense. However, 6-8 freshman center Dererk Pardon has filled in admirably, averaging 13 points and 9 rebounds in the four games he’s started in place of Olah, including a 28 point outburst against Nebraska. His presence on the offensive glass will be the X-factor.
For the Gophers, Joey King had a mini resurgence against Penn State, scoring a career-high 22 points after being largely AWOL for the six games prior, while Nate Mason continued to score in double digits. Jordan Murphy, however, only attempted 3 shots, leaving a gaping hole down low and contributing to the defeat.
For a team that shot less than 40% and hung with Michigan State, it was frustrating to see Minnesota shoot 52% and hit 11 threes and still lose to a team like Penn State. 17 turnovers did them in and sloppy play doomed them to another loss. The Gophers haven’t played a complete game in quite sometime, probably since the Clemson game, but have shown flashes of a team that could get the job done. But so far Pitino and co. haven’t figured out the secret sauce.