Minnesota (13-6, 3-4) returns to Williams Arena after back-to-back road games as they host boarder rival Wisconsin (17-3, 7-1). The Gophers are 8-2 this season at “The Barn”.
The Saturday matchup is the first of two contests this year between the two schools. The Badgers swept both contests between the two schools a year ago, winning 68-45 at The Kohl Center and 75-62 in Minneapolis.
The Gophers hold a 91-82 lead in the all-time series but the Badgers have dominated the series of late, having won four in a row and 13 of 15. Minnesota’s last win came during the 2004-05 season.
Sophomore guard Trevon Hughes leads the Badgers with a 13.2 ppg average to go along with 2.9 rpg and 2.8 apg. Senior Brian Butch is averaging 12.9 ppg and a team high 7.7 rpg while junior forward Marcus Landry is contributing 11.0 ppg.
With the Gophers’ 77-65 victory over Michigan Jan. 31 in Ann Arbor, head coach Tubby Smith become a member of the 400 win club. Smith is 400-151 in 17 seasons as a head coach (79-43 at Tulsa, 45-19 at Georgia, 263-83 at Kentucky and 13-6 at Minnesota). Coming into the season, only 20 active coaches had amassed at least 400 career wins. Texas Tech’s Bob Knight leads all coaches with a record of 901-371 in 42 seasons on the bench with Army, Indiana and the past five seasons as the head coach of the Red Raiders.
BIG TEN SALUTES ITS AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDENT-ATHLETES
February is Black History Month and the Big Ten Conference continues its effort to commemorate the achievements of African-Americans on Big Ten campuses with its Black History Month website. During the month of February, the website will feature stories on male and female student-athletes from each institution and can be accessed at www.bigten.org.
Freshman Blake Hoffarber not only leads the Big Ten Conference in three-point field accuracy at .473 (44-93), 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
Blake Hoffarber (2007-08) 44
Kevin Burleson (1999-00) 44
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 19 games, the Gophers have averaged 10.5 steals per game, tops in the conference, blocked 4.6 shots per game, fifth in the conference, have averaged 21.9 defensive rebounds per game while holding opponents to 63.1 points per game.
Individually, Gopher freshman Al Nolen leads the Gophers and the Big Ten is steals with 2.3 spg while sophomore Damian Johnson holds the team-lead in blocks, swatting 1.4 per game (eighth in the conference).
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in 16 of the team’s 19 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 515-312 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, a 33-10 edge against Nicholls State on Dec. 28, a 22-21 against Michigan State in the conference opener on Jan. 5 and a 31-14 edge over Northwestern on Jan. 9. The Gophers bench also outscored Penn State 29-8 on Jan. 12 and Ohio State 20-6 on Jan. 26.
A Gopher has scored at least five points off the bench in every game, led by Blake Hoffarber’s 21 points against Colorado State, 15 points against Northwestern on Jan. 9 and a 19-point effort against Penn State on Jan. 12. Hoffarber was also the leading bench scorer in all three Duel in the Desert games (Dec. 28-30) 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 181 points since and currently sits 20th on the career points list with 1,190. Mychal Thompson (1974-78) sits atop the list with 1,992 career points.
Also, with 14 rebounds vs. Northwestern (1/9) Coleman 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. With two blocks against Michigan on Jan. 31, Coleman now has 95 career blocks, moving him into a tie with Jerry Holman for ninth place on Minnesota’s all-time list.
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season.
Nolen is averaging 4.7 points, 3.7 assists, 2.3 steals and 21.4 minutes per game this season while shooting .415 (22-53) from the field. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in 11 of the 18 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 41 steals (2.3 spg), which ranks him first overall in the Big Ten and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in assists at 3.7 per game and fifth in the conference with a 1.94 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 9.4 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .512 (63-123) from the floor, including a Big Ten Conference best .473 (44-93) 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.
STAT SHEET FILLER
Minnesota forward Damian Johnson has been filling up the stat sheet all season. The sophomore from Thibodaux, La. started the regular season with a bang, as he came off the bench to score 12 points, grab eight rebounds, block four shots while also stealing four balls, all career highs. He tied a career-high in points on Dec. 1 against UC Riverside while also grabbing seven rebounds, blocking three shots and stealing three balls. Johnson dished out a career-high five assists and tied a career-high with five steals against Ohio State on Jan. 26. He also contributed eight points and six rebounds.
Johnson is sixth on the team in scoring at 7.2 ppg, tied for second on the team in rebounding at 4.5 rpg, leads the team in blocks with 27 (1.4 bpg) and has the second most steals (36, 1.9 spg), which is fourth most in the conference. Over the last seven games, all Big Ten Conference games, Johnson has averaged 7.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 steals, 1.6 assists and 25.1 minutes per game while shooting .541 (20-37) from the field.
Johnson helped limit Indiana’s Eric Gordon to 12 points on Jan. 17. Gordon managed just 3-for-8 shooting on the night. It was Gordon’s second lowest total this year, and lowest in Big Ten play. The three field goals were also tied for his second-lowest total of the season. He came into the Jan. 17 contest averaging 23.0 points per game. Johnson forced seven Gordon turnovers, while racking up five steals, three blocks and scored eight points.