Big week on road allows Gophers to climb 17 Jan 12

It was quite a turnaround week for Tubby Smith’s Golden Gophers.

Minnesota began the week with a four-game losing streak, an 0-4 record in the Big Ten this year and 10 straight conference losses dating back to last season. The week began with a road game at No. 8 Indiana and concluded with a game at Penn State.

Smith’s team, which continues to adjust to life without injured star Trevor Mbakwe, surprisingly won both games to climb out of the Big Ten cellar.

The win at Indiana came against a team that had already beaten No. 1 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State this season.

“It feels real good, especially to come into Indiana, a place I haven’t won yet and one of the most hostile environments that you’re ever going to play at,” forward Rodney Williams said. “We’re just happy to finally get that win under our belt and now finally make a run in the Big Ten.”

That “run” continued Jan. 15 at Penn State, hardly a powerhouse but still a team playing on its home floor, with the Gophers having to guard against both the Nittany Lions and the inevitable letdown that comes after a win like the one at Indiana.

“We showed some real toughness and some tenacity,” Smith said after the second straight road win. “I thought our guys played with a lot of poise, a lot of savvy.”

The two wins lifted the Gophers to 14-5 overall on the season, heading into their Jan. 22 home game against Northwestern.

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NCAAB Team Report – Minnesota – NOTES, QUOTES

–Coach Tubby Smith told the legendary Sid Hartman of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he’s confident in the Minnesota basketball program and believes he will sign a contract extension soon.

“It’ll get done,” Smith said. “I’ve got two more years on my contract now, and I think it’s important that we get something done, and we will in the future.”

Smith told Hartman the Gophers need a new practice facility.

“Oh yeah, it’s absolutely a big part of the recruiting process, and we need to continue to grow the program so we can compete against the best,” Smith said. “If you want to be the best, the best do things that ordinary people or the mediocre teams or the average school won’t do. That means it has to be funded at that level, at the championship level.”

–Minnesota, which didn’t play a true road game until the Big Ten opener at Illinois and then at Michigan, scored their first road win of the season at No. 8 Indiana and then followed that with their second, at Penn State.

The Gophers are in a stretch of three of four on the road, hosting Northwestern Jan. 22 and then going to Michigan State.

–It was almost exactly a year that the Gophers had gone since defeating a top-10 team. They defeated No. 8 Purdue on Jan. 13, 2011 and then beat No. 8 Indiana on Jan. 12, 2012.

–The Gophers shot 55.3 percent and held Penn State to just 30 percent from the floor.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3-for-3, 2-for-2 and 4-for-4 — Guard Austin Hollins field goal, 3-point field goal and free throw numbers in Minnesota’s win at Penn State.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “That monkey is off our back. This is kind of a jump-start for us, and we’ve just got to keep working as hard as we have to get to this point and continue from here on out.” — G Austin Hollins after the upset win at No. 8 Indiana.

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NCAAB Team Report – Minnesota – STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK’S GAME:

–vs. Northwestern, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: In Northwestern, the Gophers get a 12-5 team coming off an 81-74 upset of No. 6 Michigan State. The Wildcats wore new black shirts in the game and got 22 points from senior forward John Shurna. Shurna and junior swingman Drew Crawford are 1-2 on the Wildcats in both scoring and rebounding, Shurna at 19.1/6.1 and Crawford at 17.6/4.8. Northwestern is a strong shooting team that has been outrebounded by some five per game by its opposition, and the home floor may well lead the Gophers to their third straight victory.

FUTURES MARKET: Freshman guard Joe Coleman made a major impact in the road wins at Indiana and Penn State. Coleman scored eight points and had three rebounds at Indiana and then struck for a season-high 23 points at Penn State, where he was 13-for-14 from the foul line. He hit his first 13, after going 4-for-5 from the line at Indiana.

“He’s been a big key to how we’ve played lately,” coach Tubby Smith said after the Penn State game. “His energy and enthusiasm have helped.”

PLAYER NOTES

–Sophomore G Austin Hollins, back in the starting lineup after coming off the bench for a game, scored 18 points and had eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks in the win over Indiana. He then scored 12 points and dished out five assists at Penn State.

–Junior F Rodney Williams scored 12 points and grabbed six boards at Indiana and then led the Gophers in rebounding at Penn State with eight while scoring 12 points.

–Junior G Julian Welch had 10 points at Indiana and 12 at Penn State.