Minnesota (15-8, 5-6) hits the road after back-to-back home games as they travel to take on border rival Wisconsin (20-4, 10-2). The Gophers have won their last two Big Ten road games and three of their past four.
The Saturday matchup is the second of two contests this year between the two schools. The Badgers won the first meeting by a 63-47 score on Feb. 3 in Minneapolis.
The Gophers hold a 91-83 lead in the all-time series but the Badgers have dominated the series of late, having won five in a row and 14 of 16. Minnesota’s last win of the series came during the 2004-05 season.
Senior Brian Butch leads the Badgers with a 12.7 ppg average to go along with 6.9 rpg. Sophomore guard Trevon Hughes is averaging 12.5 ppg and a team high 2.1 spg while junior forward Marcus Landry is contributing 10.9 ppg.
Illinois now leads the all-time series 102-57. Each team has won 40 games in contests played in Minneapolis. Illinois has won the last 18 meetings between the two schools.
Tonight’s matchup is the only regular season contest between the Gophers and Illinois this season.
Tubby Smith is now1-1 in his career against Illinois.
Illinois notched the best three-point shooting and field goal shooting performances against the Gophers this season, finishing 7-for-13 from beyond the arc.
Minnesota shot a season-low 33.3 percent from the field (20-for-60), including 8-for-39 in the second half.
Minnesota was 14-for-19 (73.6 percent) from the free-throw line on the night. The Golden Gophers have shot 53-for-68 (77.9) from the free-throw line the last five games.
With three three-pointers this evening, Blake Hoffarber has now made 53 three-pointers on the season. With the 53 three-pointers Hoffarber set a Minnesota freshman record for three-point field goals. Hoffarber passed Voshon Lenard (1991-92), who finished his freshman campaign with 51 triples.
Hoffarber finished with 11 points, marking his 11th double-figure scoring performance this season.
With 10 points, Lawrence Westbrook was in double figures for the 10th time this season and 12th time in his career.
Al Nolen scored 10 points, marking the fifth time this season the freshman has been in double figures.
Damian Johnson had a career-high 10 rebounds on the night. He also had nine points and four steals.
Johnson had six offensive rebounds on the night. It was his second straight game with six offensive boards. He has 12 offensive rebounds in the last two games for Minnesota.
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 402-153 in 17 seasons as a head coach (79-43 at Tulsa, 45-19 at Georgia, 263-83 at Kentucky and 15-8 at Minnesota). Coming into the season, only 19 active coaches had amassed at least 400 career wins.
Bob Knight leads all coaches (active & retired) with a record of 902-371 in 42 seasons on the bench with Army, Indiana and four-plus seasons as the head coach of the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Lawrence Westbrook became the first Gopher to record double-digit assists on the season and he recorded his first career double-double with 12 points and 10 assists on Feb. 6 against Northwestern in Evanston. The last Gopher to have a double-double of points and assists was Lawrence McKenzie on Feb. 18. 2007. His double-double is the third for Minnesota this season (Dan Coleman has two point-rebounds double-doubles this season).
Freshman Blake Hoffarber not only has the second highest three-point field accuracy in Big Ten Conference at .469 (53-113), but is on pace to break several school records. He is on 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 has already broken the Gophers’ mark for three-pointers by a freshman, which was set by Voshon Lenard (51) in 1991-92.
THREE-POINTERS BY A GOPHER FRESHMAN
Player (Season) 3FGM
Blake Hoffarber (2007-08) 53
Voshon Lenard (1991-92) 51
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 18 of the team’s 23 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 598-367 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, Ohio State 20-6 on Jan. 26, Northwestern 20-10 on Feb. 6 in Evanston and held a 31-7 bench scoring edge over Iowa on Feb. 9.
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 and 16 at Northwestern on Feb. 6; 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.
The Gophers defense was strong through the non-conference portion of the schedule and it has continued into the Big Ten schedule. Through 23 games, the Gophers have averaged 10.1 steals per game, tops in the conference, blocked 4.5 shots per game, fifth in the conference, have averaged 21.5 defensive rebounds per game while holding opponents to 63.8 points per game.
Individually, Gopher freshman Al Nolen leads the Gophers and the Big Ten Conference in steals with 2.2 spg while sophomore Damian Johnson holds the team-lead in blocks, swatting 1.5 per game (fifth in the conference).
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 206 points since and currently is tied for 17th place with Melvin Newbern on the career points list with 1,224. 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 his one blocked shot against Indiana on Feb. 12, Coleman now has 99 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 9-14 but that is not the only major difference between the two seasons. Minnesota is averaging 11.7 more points per game this season (72.3-60.6) while allowing 2.4 points less per game (63.8-66.2).
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber this season.
Nolen is averaging 4.8 points, 3.6 assists, 2.2 steals and 21.6 minutes per game this season. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in 12 of the 22 games he has played in, including a career-high eight Feb. 9 vs. Iowa. He has recorded 48 steals (2.2 spg), which ranks him first overall in the Big Ten and ranks eighth in the Big Ten in assists at 3.6 per game and sixth in the conference with a 1.82 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 9.3 for the Gophers this season and is shooting .493 (74-150) from the floor, including .469 (53-113) from behind the arc, the second highest percentage 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, 19 at Penn State on Jan. 12, 15 points in the first start of his Gopher career on Feb. 6 at Northwestern and eight points in another start vs. Iowa on Feb. 9.
BIG CROWDS AT THE BARN
The Barn was packed to the limit for a fourth straight game Feb. 9 against Wisconsin, as a sellout crowd of 14,625 was announced. Williams arena also saw sellouts against Indiana on Jan. 17, against Michigan State on Jan. 20 and against Wisconsin on Feb. 3. 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 12,949 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.
Against Iowa on Feb. 9, Johnson played 31 minutes off the bench and scored nine points on 4-of-8 shooting and also contributed a team-high seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and an assist. He grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds, seven of which were offensive, against Illinois on Feb. 12 while also scoring nine points, swiping four balls and blocking a shot.
Johnson is sixth on the team in scoring at 7.3 ppg, second on the team in rebounding at 4.7 rpg, leads the team in blocks with 35 (1.5 bpg) and has the second most steals (44, 1.9 spg), which is fifth most in the conference. Over the last 11 games, all Big Ten Conference games, Johnson has averaged 7.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 1.5 assists and 25.7 minutes per game while shooting .508 (32-63) 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.