7:00 PM ET, December 28, 2010
Kohl Center, Madison, Wisconsin
It's been six years since Minnesota last finished with a winning record in Big Ten play, but this season's team has a good chance to end that drought and possibly achieve even bigger goals.The 14th-ranked Gophers open their conference schedule Tuesday night at Wisconsin, looking to win their sixth straight.Minnesota (11-1) put together another strong non-conference record, but this season, it's hoping to carry over that success to Big Ten games. The Gophers have gone 9-9 in league play the last two seasons after going a combined 21-3 in non-conference games over that stretch.However, a five-game win streak -- not including victories over then-No. 8 North Carolina and West Virginia last month -- have Minnesota optimistic it can post a winning conference record for the first time since going 10-6 in 2004-05. The Gophers haven't won a Big Ten regular-season title since 1997, one that was later vacated due to NCAA sanctions."It's going to be a lot tougher," coach Tubby Smith said of the Big Ten season after an 85-73 win over South Dakota State on Thursday. "That's one of the reasons we play teams of this caliber, to really test us and push us and make us play better."Minnesota's game against the Jackrabbits was tied at 63 before the Gophers went on a 12-3 run led by Colton Iverson and Al Nolen, who missed the previous five games with a stress fracture in his right foot."I definitely think we needed a game like that to kind of get us ready for the Big Ten," Nolen said. "You'd rather have a grind-it-out game against a good team, which South Dakota State is, than an easy rollover game. That definitely wakes a team up and gets us ready for the Big Ten."Nolen played 23 minutes, scoring all eight of his points in the second half, and Iverson had 11 of his 15 after halftime. Devoe Joseph also finished with 15 points while leading scorer Blake Hoffarber, who came in averaging 14.8 points, was held to four.While Minnesota's depth has been its strength, with five players averaging at least 9.0 points, that could be tested against a stingy Wisconsin defense.The Badgers (10-2) are holding opponents to 54.1 points per game to rank among the Division I leaders.They won their final six non-conference games, including an 80-56 victory over Coppin State on Thursday as they hit a school-record 17 pointers. Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer each scored 19 points with Leuer gong 5 of 10 from beyond the arc."I think through the non-conference season the team has grown a lot and has taken a lot of strides in the right direction," Leuer said. "We still feel like we can get better. ... Now that we're entering the Big Ten season, that's our goal to win a Big Ten championship. We feel like that's a realistic goal for us."Leuer, seven points shy of 1,000 for his career, is leading the Badgers with 19.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. He was held to four points on 2-of-12 shooting in a 68-52 loss to Minnesota on Feb. 18, his first game back from a broken wrist that kept him out nine games. The senior forward has averaged 6.6 points in five games against the Gophers.Wisconsin is 9-0 in conference home openers under coach Bo Ryan but has lost three straight to Minnesota. That skid includes a 78-74 overtime loss at Madison on Jan. 15, 2009, the first time the Gophers ever won at the Kohl Center.
|Avg Points Allowed||67.0||58.3|
|Conference||Big Ten||Big Ten|
|» Dec 28, 2010||@WIS 68, MINN 60||Recap|