Minnesota and Northwestern split the season series a season ago with each team winning on the road. Prior to the Gophers win on Jan. 31, 2007 in Evanston, the Wildcats had strung together six straight victories over Minnesota.
The split during the 2006-07 season put the all-time series at 83-56 in favor of the Gophers, dating back to a 21-16 victory on Feb. 13, 1909 in Minneapolis.
The Wildcats (5-6, 0-2) are led by freshman guard Michael Thompson and junior guard Craig Moore, who are both contributing 13.5 points per game. Thompson is also dishing out a team-high 5.3 assists per game, second best in the Big Ten Conference.
Defense - Defense - Defense
The Gophers defense has been strong through the non-conference portion of the schedule and has continued into the Big Ten schedule. Through 13 games, the Gophers have averaged 10.7 steals per game, tops in the conference, blocked 5.2 shots per game, third in the conference, have averaged 22.3 defensive rebounds per game while holding opponents to 59.8 points per game, fourth lowest in the conference.
Individually, Gopher freshman Al Nolen leads the Gophers and the Big Ten is steals with 2.4 spg while sophomore Damian Johnson holds the team-lead in blocks, swatting 1.5 per game (fifth in the conference).
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in each of the team’s 13 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 398-201 bench scoring edge on its foes including a 30-1 advantage over Iowa State on Nov. 20, a 27-4 advantage over UC Riverside on Dec. 1, a 41-7 edge over North Dakota State on Dec. 3, a 44-27 margin against Colorado State, a 26-13 edge on Dec. 12 vs. South Dakota State, a 16-2 margin against Santa Clara on Dec. 22 and a 33-10 edge against Nicholls State on Dec. 28. Minnesota outscored Michigan State’s bench 22-21 to keep the streak alive on Jan. 6.
A Gopher has scored at least six points off the bench in every game, led by Blake Hoffarber’s 21 points against Colorado State. Hoffarber was the leading bench scorer in all three Duel in the Desert games with 13, 10 and 13 points against Nicholls State, Kennesaw State and UNLV, respectively. Al Nolen scored seven off the bench against Michigan State while Damian Johnson and Kevin Payton both scored six points off the bench against Santa Clara on Dec. 22. Lawrence McKenzie scored 20 points off the bench against Iowa State; Johnson chipped in a career-high 12 points against Army; Hoffarber scored 12 off the bench against Florida State while Hoffarber and Johnson chipped in with 13 and 12 points, respectively, off the bench against UC Riverside. Nolen had 15 to lead the Gophers against NDSU, while Johnson contributed 10 points against South Dakota State.
Coleman on the Charts
Senior Dan Coleman became just the 34th player in school history to record 1,000 career points, thanks to a 22-point effort in the Gophers 91-74 victory over Colorado State on Dec. 8. Coleman has added 106 points since and currently is tied for 23rd place on the career points list with 1,106. Mychal Thompson (1974-78) sits atop the list with 1,992 career points.
Also, Coleman is just 10 rebounds shy of 500 boards in his career. He will become just the 17th Gopher player with 1,000 points and 500 boards in a career. Michael Bauer was the last Gopher to join the club, reaching the milestone in 2004. Coleman also has 89 career blocks, just four shy of Minnesota’s top-10.
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season.
Nolen is averaging 5.1 points, 3.5 assists, 2.4 steals and 22.0 minutes per game this season while shooting .436 (17-39) from the field. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in eight of the 13 games, including a career-high seven Jan. 5 at Michigan State, and has recorded 31 steals (2.4 spg), which ranks him first overall in the Big Ten. Nolen is also 10th in the Big Ten in assists at 3.5 assists per game and fifth in the conference with a 2.4 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 9.5 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .518 (44-85) from the floor, including .455 (30-66) from behind the arc, the third best percentage in the conference. He scored a season-high 21 points, hitting 6-of-11 three pointers, off the bench Dec. 8 against Colorado State. Hoffarber also came off the bench to contribute 13 points Dec. 1 against UC Riverside, 10 points against North Dakota State on Dec. 3, nine points Dec. 12 against South Dakota State and 13, 10 and 13 points, respectively during the three-game Duel in the Desert after Christmas. He chipped in with five points off the bench in the Gophers conference opener Jan. 5 at Michigan State.