DATE & TIME: Sunday, February 13th, 6:05 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (15,500) -- Iowa City, Iowa. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Minnesota 11-3, Iowa 7-6. Away Record: Minnesota 2-5, Iowa 2-6. Neutral Record: Minnesota 3-0, Iowa 1-2. Conference Record: Minnesota 5-7, Iowa 3-9. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 99-88.
Since winning four straight league outings and five in six chances, the Golden Gophers have been knocked around by a couple of premier teams in the conference. On Thursday night, the team was downed by Illinois at home in a 71-62 final, four days after the Gophers were dumped by top-ranked Ohio State at home as well. As a result, Minnesota is now two games under .500 in conference at just 5-7.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes have won a total of just three games since the Christmas season, topping Indiana, Michigan State and Indiana. However, while the team battled hard on Wednesday night and forced overtime, Iowa simply couldn't get the job done against 13th-ranked Wisconsin at home (62-59). With the latest defeat, the Hawkeyes are a mere 3-9 in league play and that had them tied with Indiana for last place in the Big Ten standings heading into the weekend.
With respect to the all-time series between these two schools on the hardwood, the Gophers are ahead by a count of 98-88 after picking up a 69-59 win in the first meeting of the season at Williams Arena last month. In that contest, Trevor Mbakwe recorded a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds for the hosts. Melsahn Basabe paced the visitors with a double-double of his own with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Mbakwe put together another solid double-double for Minnesota with 17 points and a game-high 16 rebounds a few nights back, but still the Gophers lost their fourth in a row, a first for head coach Tubby Smith. Ralph Sampson III accounted for 16 points, 11 boards and four blocked shots, while Blake Hoffarber tossed in another 15 points, although he shot just 3-of-10 behind the three-point line and the team 4-of-15 beyond the arc. The squad also left a few points at the free-throw line as well (10-of-17). Mbakwe can be a devastating player if he gets involved early enough, but there are also times when he seems to be detached from the action even though he is still averaging a double-double with 13.2 points and 10.6 rebounds per outing. Hoffarber, a three-point threat who has knocked down close to 40 percent of his attempts, sits atop the scoring list for the team with his 14.2 ppg and is also first with 94 assists after 24 games.
Iowa led by as many as seven points late in the first half against Wisconsin, but in the second half the defense allowed the Badgers to make good on close to 52 percent from the floor to force overtime and eventually claim the three- point road decision. Except for Eric May, who made just one of his six field goal chances and finished with a mere two points, every starter for the Hawkeyes hit for double figures, beginning with Bryce Cartwright with 14 and followed by Basabe with 13 and 11 boards. Also posting a double-double was Jarryd Cole with 10 points and a team-best 12 rebounds, while Matt Gatens tacked on 10 points as well. Over the course of 12 conference games, Gatens leads the way on offense with his 13.8 ppg, shooting almost as well from three-point range (.406) as he is from the floor (.412) overall. Basabe puts up 13.1 ppg and clears 7.8 rpg and Cartwright checks in with 11.7 ppg while averaging better than six assists per contest, although his 28.0 percent effort out on the perimeter is still hard to swallow.
With Hoffarber on the outside and Mbakwe handling the action in the paint for the Gophers, the Hawkeyes will have a hard time earning a split in the season series this evening.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 66, Iowa 60