Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Coach Tubby Smith and his Minnesota squad picked up an encouraging victory on Monday against Michigan State.
Minnesota forward Rodney Williams told reporters that Monday's 76-63 victory over Michigan State was a "statement game." The win against the Spartans indicated that this year's Gophers are different than previous squads.
In the last two seasons, Minnesota has breezed through early, non-conference games before collapsing during conference play. The Gophers are determined to make sure this year is different. Said Williams,
"In past years, we've come in (to Big Ten play) with similar records ... and we come out and lose the first one and the season goes downhill from there. We're a different team this year."
The win on Monday was the first step in bucking the trend. Minnesota snapped a 12-game regular-season drought against MSU that dated back to 2006.
Minnesota's veterans may help the Gophers' Big Ten struggles. There are only two freshmen on the roster, so most of the team knows what it will take to prevent another late-season collapse.
The No. 9 Gophers have now won nine games in a row, and seem poised to make an NCAA tournament appearance for the first time since 2010.