Minnesota continues to climb the rankings behind an impressive defensive display.
Coach Tubby Smith wouldn't have it any other way.The No. 14 Golden Gophers try to remain unbeaten at home Tuesday night while improving to 16-0 against surging South Dakota State.Minnesota (8-1) entered the AP Top 25 on Nov. 26 and moved up seven spots in Monday's poll after pulling out a 77-68 victory at Florida State last Tuesday and cruising past North Florida 87-59 on Saturday.While Minnesota went 1 for 13 from 3-point range, it forced a season best-tying 22 turnovers and outrebounded the Ospreys 48-35."That's our DNA," said Smith, whose team leads the Big Ten with 16.2 forced turnovers per game and ranks second in opponent field-goal percentage at 35.9. "We've got to hang our hat on our defense. That was a pretty impressive defensive effort. We knew we had a size advantage on them and it paid off."The Golden Gophers also came up with a season-high 13 blocks. Junior guard Austin Hollins had a career-best four of them to go along with 12 points."When we're blocking shots and getting after steals, we're a lot tougher. We'll beat a lot more opponents," said center Elliott Eliason, who had three steals and two blocks.Minnesota has outscored opponents by an average of 26.8 points in opening 5-0 at home, where it's taken 19 straight and 40 of 41 non-conference games.The Golden Gophers have also had their way against Summit League foes, winning 60 of 61 all-time matchups -- including an unblemished record against South Dakota State (6-2).Minnesota led by two points at the break before pulling away in the second half of a 71-55 victory over the Jackrabbits last Nov. 11. South Dakota State's Nate Wolters finished with 20 points but shot 8 of 22.The senior guard, averaging 20.8 points, scored 13 on a season-worst 5 for 16 (31.3 percent) from the floor Saturday, but South Dakota State beat Nebraska Omaha 78-63 to extend its winning streak to five.Jordan Dykstra had 17 points while senior Tony Fiegen matched a career high with 16 for the Jackrabbits, who took a 56-28 lead into halftime before letting up a bit over the final 20 minutes."We don't want to just make it about winning, it can't just be about winning," coach Scott Nagy said. "It has to be about being our best, and trying to be our best all the time, and we didn't do that in the second half. Our kids know it, we talked about it, and that's it -- we'll move on. We won't watch any film of it because we have to get ready for Minnesota."South Dakota State opened this season with a 70-67 loss at Alabama, its only game against a team from a major conference.The Jackrabbits fell 68-60 to then-No. 9 Baylor in the second round of the NCAA tournament in their lone matchup against a ranked foe last season.
One of the under-the-radar matchups Tuesday night in college basketball is South Dakota State at Minnesota. This game is a homecoming for South Dakota State star Nate Wolters, who is the only player in the nation averaging at least 20 PPG and 6 APG. Wolters went to St. Cloud Tech High School in St. Cloud, Minnesota, where he set his high school career scoring record and was named a first team All-State selection his senior year. He was not recruited by Minnesota during high school.