The Sports Network
By Pat Taggart, Associate College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Assembly Hall (17,456) -- Bloomington, Indiana. Television: Big Ten Network. Home Record: Minnesota 11-1, Indiana 11-2. Away Record: Minnesota 2-4, Indiana 0-7. Neutral Record: Minnesota 3-0, Indiana 0-2. Conference Record: Minnesota 5-4, Indiana 2-7. Series Record: Indiana leads, 92-65.
GAME NOTES: The 18th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers will attempt to get back to their winning ways today as they battle Big Ten foe Indiana in Bloomington.
Minnesota carried an impressive four-game win streak into Saturday's road clash with a strong Purdue squad, and the result was a 73-61 defeat. The setback dropped the Golden Gophers to 16-5 overall and 5-4 in conference. They enter tonight's game with a 2-4 record in true road games, not exactly a reason for confidence.
As for Indiana, it has lost three of its last four games to plummet to 2-7 in Big Ten action, overshadowing a respectable 11-11 overall mark. Sunday's loss was particularly hard to swallow, as the Hoosiers fell to Michigan State on the road in an 84-83 final in overtime. On a positive note for Indiana, it is 11-2 at home this season and figures to play with confidence tonight.
The Golden Gophers defeated the Hoosiers by a 67-63 final in early January, overshadowing the fact that Indiana owns a 92-65 series advantage over Minnesota.
While the Gophers certainly weren't dominated by Purdue on Saturday, there are a few obvious reasons that they fell short in that contest. Minnesota was outrebounded by a 37-32 margin and outscored 17-12 from the foul line. Also problematic was the fact that the Gophers hit only three shots from behind the arc while Purdue drained 10 three-pointers. Trevor Mbakwe posted 17 points, 12 rebounds and three steals in the loss for Minnesota, which got 14 points from Blake Hoffarber and 11 points from Ralph Sampson III. Hoffarber is netting 14.0 ppg this season on the strength of his 40.2 percent shooting from three- point range, and he also paces the club with 89 assists. Mbakwe adds 13.6 ppg and 10.6 rpg, and he is a 61.4 percent shooter from the floor. Sampson adds balance to the lineup with 10.8 ppg for Minnesota, which is generating 72.8 ppg while allowing 67.6 ppg to opponents.
Indiana shot 53.8 percent from the floor in the first half and 56.5 percent in the second half against Michigan State on Sunday, including a combined 11- of-16 effort from three-point range in regulation. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, they completely lost their shooting touch in the extra session, hitting only 2-of-10 field goal attempts, including an 0-of-5 showing from behind the arc. Christian Watford led the way in defeat with 21 points, and Jordan Hulls contributed 17 points. Matt Roth posted 12 points, Victor Oladipo added 11 points and Jeremiah Rivers rounded out the double-digit scorers with 10 points. Through 22 contests, Watford paces his team with 17.0 ppg, and his 5.8 rpg are tops as well. Verdell Jones III (12.9 ppg), who sat out Sunday's game with a knee injury, may be out of action again tonight and figures to be less than 100 percent if he does play. The Hoosiers are scoring 73.9 ppg while allowing 67.6 ppg to foes.
While Indiana has the advantage of playing at home tonight, Minnesota is the better team and will win narrowly. Mbakwe and Sampson will be too much for the Hoosiers to contend with in the paint.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 69, Indiana 67