8:30 PM ET, January 26, 2011
Just as Minnesota seemed to be gaining momentum in Big Ten play, it's again going to have to overcome some adversity.Two days after learning starting point guard Al Nolen could be out for the season, the No. 16 Golden Gophers host Northwestern on Wednesday night trying to match their longest conference win streak of the past decade.Minnesota (15-4, 4-3) won its third straight Saturday, defeating Michigan 69-64, but dampening the mood was Nolen leaving the game with an injury which turned out to be a broken right foot.Nolen missed five games earlier this season with what the Golden Gophers said was a stress reaction, a precursor to a stress fracture, and now he'll have to undergo surgery. He is averaging 8.4 points and 3.7 assists, and he leads the conference with 2.4 steals per game.Questions about Nolen's decision not to have the procedure done after he was first injured drew a frustrated response from coach Tubby Smith."It cost us. It cost him," Smith said Monday.The Gophers went 4-1 during Nolen's absence, but at that time, they were getting steady contributions from Devoe Joseph, who started last season when Nolen was declared academically ineligible before the spring semester. Joseph decided to transfer earlier this month after playing eight games, leaving Minnesota's backcourt thin.The lack of depth puts additional pressure on freshmen Maverick Ahanmisi and Chip Armelin. Neither averages more than 10 minutes or four points per game."We know that we've got a tough challenge ahead of us," said Smith, whose team visits No. 12 Purdue on Saturday.Blake Hoffarber, Minnesota's other senior and the team's leading scorer, said after the win over the Wolverines that the Gophers are capable of carrying on. He had 12 points, six assists and five rebounds in the victory."Injuries are part of the game so you have to be ready when things like this happen," said Hoffarber, who had nine points and four assists in the second half with Nolen out.Smith said Hoffarber will probably start at point guard Wednesday.The Gophers are looking to win four straight Big Ten games for the first time since 2008-09. They haven't had a longer win streak in conference play since a 12-game run in the 1996-97 season.They will try to hand Northwestern (13-6, 3-5) another tough loss after the WIldcats suffered an ugly 78-46 defeat to No. 17 Wisconsin on Sunday.Leading scorer John Shurna returned after missing the previous game but was held to 13 points, more than six below his season average. Northwestern let the Badgers shoot 62.1 percent in the first half while falling behind 45-26."This is rough, especially at home," coach Bill Carmody said. "Like I said, it's just the competitiveness I didn't see. There were little sparks here and there, but for the most part it wasn't there."The Wildcats had won their previous two, but one of those victories was against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. The 46 points were their fewest of the season.Shurna, who sat out the previous game for a nagging high ankle sprain suffered last month, went 1 of 7 from the field in the second half after making 4 of 6 in the first.The junior averaged 20.5 points against Minnesota last season as the teams split two games. The Gophers have won the last three meetings at home.
|Avg Points Allowed||67.9||67.0|
|Conference||Big Ten||Big Ten|