After a 16-1 start, Minnesota has dropped its last two games. Visiting the worst team in the Big Ten should be a good way to get back on track.
The No. 21 Golden Gophers hope a matchup on Sunday against an Indiana team that is winless in conference play can help them get a crucial stretch in their schedule off to a good start.
Minnesota (16-3, 4-3) will try to avoid a third straight loss and possibly prevent a departure from the Top 25. The Gophers fell three spots in this week’s rankings after a 74-65 defeat at Northwestern last Sunday, then lost 70-62 to No. 18 Purdue on Thursday.
That latest loss included Minnesota’s worst shooting performance in nearly eight years—27.6 percent from the field. Al Nolen had 17 points, Lawrence Westbrook added 12 and they combined to hit all 18 of their free-throw attempts, but shot 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from the floor.
“We couldn’t get the ball in the basket to save our lives,” Nolen said.
The Gophers will try to rebound during what will likely be a key seven-game stretch that begins Sunday. Five of those contests are on the road, where they are 3-1 this season, although the three wins - one of which came in overtime - were by a combined eight points.
Following this contest, Minnesota plays back-to-back games against ranked teams—Illinois and Michigan State.
The Gophers, who won 20 games last season but were 8-10 in conference play, hope to get their offense back in gear after averaging 63.5 points and shooting 36.9 percent in the last two games. They averaged 72.5 points and shot 47.2 percent during their 16-1 start.
“Dealing with prosperity is a lot tougher than dealing with adversity sometimes,” coach Tubby Smith said. “You start thinking it’s me doing it and it’s really the team. We need to learn that we’re only as good as our teammates.”
Minnesota has lost three straight and seven of eight in Bloomington, averaging 63.6 points and shooting 39.1 percent from the field. This year’s Indiana team, however, might be one of the worst the Gophers have faced in some time.
The Hoosiers (5-12, 0-5) have lost eight straight and are off to their worst start in conference play since 1944, struggling to rebuild following previous coach Kelvin Sampson’s phone-call scandal. They have dropped their last three Big Ten games by an average of 21.7 points, getting held below 56 points and 40 percent from the field in each defeat.
Indiana hasn’t played since losing 65-55 to Penn State last Saturday. Devan Dumes scored 13 points, Tom Pritchard added 12 and they are the Hoosiers’ top scorers with 12.5 and 12.4 per game, respectively.
The Hoosiers are the lowest-scoring team in the Big Ten, averaging 60.1 points, while allowing a conference-high 70.1 per game.
“It’s been a fundamental week, but it’s also been a week of a lot of toughness training,” coach Tom Crean said after Friday’s practice. “You name it, we’ve got to do it.”