Gophers Get Back In The Win Column With 62-45 Victory Over Iowa

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Mbakwe Leads Golden Gophers Past Hawkeyes, 62-45

(Sports Network) - Trevor Mbakwe scored a career-high 24 points as he led the Minnesota Golden Gophers to a 62-45 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in a Big Ten Conference battle at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Mbakwe converted 7-of-11 shots from the floor and 10-of-11 at the free-throw line for the Golden Gophers (17-8, 6-7 Big Ten) as they snapped a four-game slide. Also scoring in double figures for Minnesota was Rodney Williams with 13 points, to go along with seven rebounds and five assists.

The Hawkeyes (10-15, 3-10) were paced by Bryce Cartwright with 11 points on 3- of-7 shooting behind the three-point line. Cartwright also handed out seven assists as the team bowed for the second time in as many outings.

Iowa connected on just seven field goals in the first half and made only 4- of-14 behind the three-point line, leaving the team with a 30-20 deficit at the break.

In the second half Minnesota took control at the free-throw line with 16-of-19 accuracy to capture the 17-point win.

The Hawkeyes finished the evening shooting just 34.0 percent from the floor and 6-of-28 beyond the arc, all while turning the ball over 17 times.

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Golden Gophers Hope To Snap Losing Streak Tonight

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.

GAME NOTES: The Minnesota Golden Gophers try to bring an end to a four-game slide this evening as they challenge the Iowa Hawkeyes in a Big Ten Conference battle at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

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

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Gophers Coach Tubby Smith Rips His Team After Fourth Straight Loss

A few weeks ago, the Minnesota Golden Gophers were a Top 15 team in the NCAA Basketball polls, and appeared assured of a spot in the upcoming NCAA Basketball tournament. . .perhaps assured of even getting a high seed in that tournament.

Boy, what a difference a few weeks makes.

In the wake of their fourth consecutive Big Ten loss, they've fallen out of the Top 25, and are now likely sliding towards the "bubble" for whether they'll get into the Big Dance or not. . .if they're not already firmly on the bubble. The losses have obviously gotten to Gophers' head coach Tubby Smith, who shredded his team in his press conference after his team's 71-62 loss to Illinois at the Barn on Thursday night.

A couple of things, in particular, stand out about the speech. Here's the first quote from Smith that has me, personally, shaking my head.

"After 37 years, everybody’s going to question when you’re losing. I don’t care what it is. I don’t care if it’s a four-game losing streak or a one-game losing streak. I don’t mind taking it. But I’m not going to take it when guys aren’t doing it the way we say to do it. And that’s what we’re going to get back to, basic fundamentals.

"And I don’t think it’s that they’re not doing what we want to them to do. It’s that physically they’re incapable of doing some of the things that we’re asking them to do. I’ve got to figure that out."

Well, for starters, teaching the "basic fundamentals" and making sure they're executed properly is kind of, sort of the job of the head coach, isn't it? That's always the impression that I've been under. I know it's been a while since I played organized basketball, but when we got into practice at the start of every year, we didn't install anything that even remotely resembled an offensive or defensive play for a week. Why? Because we were re-learning how to shoot, how to pass, how to get down on defense, and all those other things. I just assumed that that was the way it always went. . .of course, I never played anything even remotely resembling major college ball, either, so I guess I don't know for sure.

But here, for me, is the big one.

"We don’t have the same kids," Smith said. "We had some pretty mature kids last year. Lawrence Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Paul Carter, Devron Bostick. Seniors that were men. Right now we’ve got boys. That’s a big difference. We’ve got (freshmen) Chip Armelin, Maverick Ahanmisi, Austin Hollins. It’s a big difference."

Wow.

Now, don't get me wrong. . .I get that the team has lost Al Nolen, who was a great floor leader and everything else. He also ran Devoe Joseph off of the squad, and hasn't gotten squat out of "men" like Rodney Williams and Colton Iverson for the last couple of weeks. It's not the fault of players Armelin, Ahanmisi, and Hollins that the team has zero depth. They're doing the best they can and being asked to grow up quickly. . .perhaps more quickly than they should.

And, to be honest, this goes back to Tubby Smith as well. He's been at the University of Minnesota for four years. These aren't Dan Monson's players. . .these are his players. If they can't "physically do what's being asked of them," then why is Tubby Smith recruiting players that aren't capable of doing the things he wants done?

Tubby Smith is angry, and with his team in the middle of a four-game losing streak, I guess it's easy to understand why. However, it's entirely possible that he needs to look in the mirror before throwing anyone and everyone else under the bus.

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Illini Hand Gophers Fourth Straight Loss, 71-62

(Sports Network) - Mike Davis scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead the Illinois Fighting Illini to a 71-62 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a Big Ten Conference tussle at Williams Arena.

Demetri McCamey also scored 17 points for the Fighting Illini (16-8, 6-5 Big 10), while Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson chipped in 12 and 11 points, respectively.

The Golden Gophers (16-8,5-7) were paced by Trevor Mbakwe, who tallied 17 points and 16 rebounds in a losing effort. Ralph Sampson III also got involved, netting 16 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, while Blake Hoffarber checked in with 15 points for Minnesota.

Despite shooting just 9-of-30 from the floor in the first half, Illinois still managed to take a a 30-29 lead at the break.

The Fighting Illini put the game away in the second stanza, knocking down 50 percent from the floor, en route to a nine-point victory.

Free throw shooting proved to be the difference in this contest as Illinois outscored Minnesota 23-10 from the charity stripe.

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Gophers Hope To Get Back On Winning Track Against Illinois

The Sports Network

DATE & TIME: Thursday, February 10th, 9:00 p.m. (et)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Illinois 11-1, Minnesota 11-2. Away Record: Illinois 2-4, Minnesota 2-5. Neutral Record: Illinois 2-3, Minnesota 3-0. Conference Record: Illinois 5-5, Minnesota 5-6. Series Record: Illinois leads, 105-59.

GAME NOTES: The Minnesota Golden Gophers have struggled mightily in recent weeks, and they will attempt to turn things around tonight when the Illinois Fighting Illini come to town for a Big Ten Conference tussle.

Losses in five of the last seven games have dropped Illinois to 5-5 in Big Ten action, overshadowing a 15-8 overall record. The Illini were most recently in action last Saturday when they fell to Northwestern by a 71-70 final. That painful defeat was the fourth true road loss of the season for UI, which has earned a mere two wins in enemy territory this season.

The Golden Gophers are in the midst of a three-game losing streak, and they have not lost four straight games in the Tubby Smith era, creating an interesting storyline for this evening's affair. Prior to the current slide, Minnesota had put together four straight wins, so it is fair to label the squad as streaky. On Sunday, the Gophers fell to top-ranked Ohio State by an 82-69 final, dropping them to 16-7 overall and 5-6 in Big Ten action.

Illinois owns a 105-59 series advantage over Minnesota, and this contest marks the only scheduled meeting of the season between the two squads.

Demetri McCamey of Illinois is one of 10 finalists for the Bob Cousy Award, given annually to the nation's top point guard. McCamey is currently averaging 14.7 ppg and 6.7 apg, and he is a 48.5 percent shooter from three-point range. Mike Davis is the only other double-digit scorer in the fold, as he is posting 11.3 ppg and 6.7 rpg. The Illini are generating 73.2 ppg while permitting 64.8 ppg to opponents while limiting foes to 39.8 percent field goal efficiency. Brandon Paul was outstanding for Illinois against Northwestern on Saturday, as he hit 4-of-6 shots from three-point range and finished with 21 points. McCamey added 14 points, and his team earned a 32-25 rebounding advantage, Unfortunately for the Illini, they fell just short in that affair.

There are three active double-digit scorers for the Golden Gophers, and Blake Hoffarber continues to lead the way with his 14.2 ppg. More than just a scorer, Hoffarber has also handed out 93 assists for Minnesota, which is generating 71.9 ppg while allowing 67.9 ppg. Trevor Mbakwe is registering 13.0 ppg on 60.7 percent field goal efficiency, and he is ripping down 10.3 rpg to go along with 38 blocks. As for Ralph Sampson III, he provides 10.9 ppg. Hoffarber scored 16 points for the Golden Gophers in Sunday's loss to Ohio State, while Sampson and Chip Armelin added 14 points apiece. Unfortunately for Minnesota, its 51 percent shooting from the field was overshadowed by 19 turnovers and a rebounding deficit.

Expect the Golden Gophers to get the job done at home tonight, as they are too good a team to lose a fourth straight contest. A balanced offensive effort is likely from Minnesota.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 73, Illinois 66

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