The Minnesota Golden Gophers (13-7, 3-5) head back on the road, as they travel to Evanston, Ill. to take on the Northwestern Wildcats (7-12, 0-8) at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
The Gophers defeated Northwestern earlier this season, 82-63 on Jan. 9 at Williams Arena thanks to 19 points and 14 rebounds from senior forward Dan Coleman and 15 points off the bench for freshman Blake Hoffarber. The 14 rebounds put Coleman over the 500 mark for his career, making him just the 17th Gopher player with 1,000 points and 500 boards in a career. Heading into the matchup against the Wildcats, Coleman has 1,199 points and 546 rebounds.
The Gophers hold a 84-56 lead in the all-time series but have only managed one victory in the last three trips to Welsh-Ryan Arena.
Sophomore forward Kevin Coble leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounding at 16.1 points and 5.8 rebounds, respectively, per game. Junior guard Craig Moore is second on the team in scoring at 12.9 ppg.
With the loss, Minnesota’s edge in the all-time series with the Badgers is narrowed to 91-83. The Badgers have won 14 of the past 16 meetings and have a five-game winning streak against Minnesota.
Tubby Smith is now 1-1 against Wisconsin in his career. Smith’s victory came against the Badgers in the NCAA Tournament in the “Sweet Sixteen” 63-57 on Mar. 27, 2003.
The contest marked the third consecutive home game for Minnesota with an opponent ranked in the Associated Press top-13. Minnesota is 0-3 in those contests.
The Gophers were a season-best 8-for-8 from the free throw line.
Minnesota had a season-low 47 points. The previous low was 59 at Michigan on Jan. 5.
The Gophers forced Wisconsin into 18 turnovers, which tied the Badgers season-high in Big Ten play this year.
Damian Johnson blocked a career-high five shots. Johnson also finished with 10 points, marking the sixth time this season and in his career that he has finished in double figures. Johnson also recorded two assists and a steal.
Johnson has multiple blocks in eight games this year, and has recorded four or more blocks three times this year.
Johnson’s five blocks were the most by a Gopher player this year.
With 11 points, Lawrence Westbrook has now scored in double figures eight times this season and 10 times in his career. Westbrook also dished out a team-high four assists.
Westbrook has recorded eight double-figure scoring games this year, and 10 in his career. He has 26 points in the last two games, which is the most in a two-game span for him in his career (he had 15 points against Michigan on Jan. 31).
Dan Coleman’s nine points move him into a tie with Archie Clark (1964-66) for 19th on the Gophers’ all-time scoring list.
Al Nolen collected nine rebounds, marking a career-high. Nolen’s previous best was five boards against Kennesaw State on Dec. 30.
Kevin Payton tied a season-high with two steals.
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 400-152 in 17 seasons as a head coach (79-43 at Tulsa, 45-19 at Georgia, 263-83 at Kentucky and 13-7 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 902-371 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 is second in the Big Ten Conference in three-point field accuracy at .468 (44-94), but is on pace to break several school records. He ison pace to break 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
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in 16 of the team’s 20 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 521-320 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 19 of the team’s 20 games, 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 is tied with Archie Clark for 19th on the career points list with 1,199. 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 Wisconsin on Feb. 3, Coleman now has 97 career blocks, moving him into ninth place on Minnesota’s all-time list.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A YEAR MAKES
At this time last year, the Gophers were 7-13 but that is not the only major difference between the two seasons. Minnesota is averaging 11.8 more points per game this season (72.4-60.6) while allowing 3.2 points less per game (63.0-66.2).
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber in the early part of the season.
Nolen is averaging 4.6 points, 3.5 assists, 2.3 steals and 21.4 minutes per game this season while shooting .411 (23-56) from the field. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in 11 of the 19 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 43 steals (2.3 spg), which ranks him second overall in the Big Ten and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in assists at 3.5 per game and ninth in the conference with a 1.68 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 8.9 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .504 (63-125) from the floor, including .468 (44-94) from behind the arc, second best in the Big Ten 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, 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 for a third straight game Feb. 3 against Wisconsin, as a sellout crowd of 14,625 was announced. Williams arena also saw sellouts against Indiana on Jan. 17 and against Michigan State on Jan. 20. The crowd that packed the Barn to see the Gophers/Indiana tilt was the first sellout since Feb. 5, 2005 against Wisconsin. Minnesota is averaging 12,813 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 at the time. 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 established a new career-high with five blocks against Wisconsin to go along with 10 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steal while playing a career-high 34 minutes.
Johnson is sixth on the team in scoring at 7.3 ppg, second on the team in rebounding at 4.4 rpg, leads the team in blocks with 32 (1.6 bpg) and has the second most steals (37, 1.9 spg), which is fourth most in the conference. Over the last eight games, all Big Ten Conference games, Johnson has averaged 7.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 1.6 assists and 26.2 minutes per game while shooting .545 (24-44) 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.