After dropping two close decisions to ranked opponents at Williams Arena last week, the Gophers (12-5, 2-3) hit the road for two contests at Ohio State (13-6, 4-2) Jan. 26 and at Michigan (5-14, 1-6) Jan. 31. Minnesota is 2-3 on the road this season. The Gophers meet the Buckeyes Saturday for the first of two meetings this year after OSU won the only meeting last year, 85-67 in Minneapolis.
The Buckeyes hold a 74-46 edge in the all-time series against the Gophers. Minnesota’s last win at Value City Arena came on Jan. 19, 2005 when the Gophers edged OSU 60-56 in overtime behind Vincent Grier’s 22 points and 12 rebounds.
Ohio State is led by senior guard Jamar Butler, who is leading the team with 15.7 points per game thus far in conference contests. Freshman center Kosta Koufos has also been solid for the Buckeyes, averaging 13.7 points per game this season and leading the team with 6.7 rebounds per game.
COACH SMITH NOTES
With the Gophers’ next win, head coach Tubby Smith will become a member of the 400 win club. Smith is 399-150 in 17 seasons as a head coach (79-43 at Tulsa, 45-19 at Georgia, 263-83 at Kentucky and 12-5 at Minnesota). Coming into the season, only 20 active coaches had amassed at least 400 career wins.
Tubby Smith has never coached against Ohio State.
Minnesota has started 12-5 for the first time since 2004-05 when the Golden Gophers finished 21-11 and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
NOTES FROM MICHIGAN STATE
Minnesota’s lead in the all-time series between the Gophers and Spartans slipped to 53-46 with today’s setback... The Gophers are now 32-16 in Williams Arena against Michigan State... With today’s loss the Gophers have now dropped both games this season to the Spartans... Michigan State defeated Minnesota 65-59 earlier this season in East Lansing and have now won five in a row over the Gophers.
Minnesota Head Coach Tubby Smith is now 399-150 all-time in 17 seasons with Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky and Minnesota... He is 12-5 with the Gophers... Today’s loss dropped Smith to 2-6 all time vs. Michigan State.
There were 14,625 fans in attendance for tonight’s game, which was listed officially as a sellout... It is the second straight home game the Gophers have sold out... Minnesota’s home game vs. Indiana on Jan. 17 was also a sold out.
The game marked the first time this year and the first time since the Gophers played No. 3 Wisconsin and No. 2 Ohio State on Feb. 14 and 18 last season that the Gophers have played consecutive ranked opponents... Minnesota dropped a 65-60 decision to No. 9 Indiana on Thursday night at Williams Arena.
Minnesota forced Michigan State into 18 turnovers, nearly four above their season average of 14.4 per game... It is the third-most turnovers committed this season by the Spartans, who had 20 on Nov. 14 vs. Louisiana-Monroe and 19 vs. the Gophers on Jan. 5.
Minnesota has now forced at least 18 turnovers in all five of its Big Ten games this season.
The Gophers six steals were their fewest since snagging four at UNLV on Dec. 30.
Minnesota’s bench was outscored 27-15 by Michigan State, marking the second straight game that the Gopher bench was outscored by the opposition.
The Gophers held Michigan State’s leading scorer Raymar Morgan (16.9 ppg) to just nine points... It was the second-lowest point total of for the Spartan sophomore... Morgan dropped 31 on the Gophers in the first meeting between the two teams.
Minnesota held senior Drew Neitzel to seven points in the first meeting between the two teams but could not contain the him this afternoon... Neitzel connected on 5 of 8 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 19 points.
Michigan State connected on just 11 of its first 21 free throws (52 percent) before drilling 11 in a row at the end of the contest to keep the Gophers at bay.
Lawrence McKenzie’s game-high 20 points equaled his season-high and were the most scored by the Minnesota senior since he had the same number at Iowa State on Nov. 20... McKenzie’s four three pointers tied for his second most this season... McKenzie hit a season-high five treys vs. Iowa State and UC Riverside earlier this year... McKenzie’s six field goals are tied for his second-most this season... He had six against UC Riverside and a season-high seven at Iowa State.
Sophomore Lawrence Westbook equaled his season-high point total with 12.
Sophomore Damian Johnson mad just his second start of the season and the six start of his career this afternoon... His 10 points today mark the fifth time this season he has finished in double figures and the first time since he scored in twin figures since scoring 10 points on Dec. 12 against South Dakota State.
Blake Hoffarber hit 1 of 2 from 3-point range this afternoon and has now had at least one 3-point basket in eight consecutive games this season... He has now hit at least one 3-pointer in 15 of 17 games on the year.
Spencer Tollackson was held to just seven points and had his four-game double-figure scoring streak snapped.
Freshman Blake Hoffarber not only leads the Big Ten Conference in three-point field accuracy at 50.0 percent (43-86), but is on pace to break several school records. He is ahead of the current school record for three-point field goal percentage (.469 by Travarus Bennett in 2001-02) and three-pointers made (78 by Lawrence McKenzie last season).
Hoffarber is already approaching the Gophers’ mark for three- pointers by a freshman, set by Voshon Lenard (51) in 1991-92.
THREE-POINTERS BY A GOPHER FRESHMAN
Player (Season) 3FGM
Voshon Lenard (1991-92) 51
Kevin Burleson (1999-00) 44
Blake Hoffarber (2007-08) 43
Michael Bauer (2000-01) 34
Quincy Lewis (1995-96) 26
The Gophers defense was strong through the non-conference portion of the schedule and it has continued into the Big Ten schedule. Through 17 games, the Gophers have averaged 10.5 steals per game, tops in the conference, blocked 4.8 shots per game, third in the conference, have averaged 21.9 defensive rebounds per game while holding opponents to 62.2 points per game, tied for second-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 (tied-sixth in the conference).
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
At this time last year, the Gophers were 7-10 but that is not the only major difference between the two seasons. Minnesota is averaging 13.8 more points per game this season (74.4-60.6) while allowing 4.0 points less per game (62.2-66.2).
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season.
Nolen is averaging 5.2 points, 3.9 assists, 2.4 steals and 22.2 minutes per game this season while shooting .440 (22-50) from the field. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in 11 of the 16 games he has played in, including a career-high seven Jan. 5 at Michigan State and seven again at Penn State on Jan. 1. He has recorded 39 steals (2.4 spg), which ranks him first overall in the Big Ten and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in assists at 3.9 per game and fifth in the conference with a 2.17 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 10.1 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .526 (60-114) from the floor, including a Big Ten Conference best .500 (43-86) from behind the arc. 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, scored 15 points in the Gophers conference home opener on Jan. 9 vs. Northwestern and 19 at Penn State on Jan. 12.
BIG CROWDS AT THE BARN
The Barn was packed to the limit on back-to-back occasions recently, Jan. 17 against Indiana and Jan. 20, its first sellouts since February 5, 2005 against Wisconsin. A sellout crowd of 14,625 jammed into Williams Arena. Minnesota is averaging 12,631 fans per game this season, the highest per game average since 1999-2000 when an average of 13,767 attended Gopher games.