Minnesota vs. Wisconsin: The Minnesota Golden Gophers will play host to the Wisconsin Badgers on Thursday, Feb. 18 at Williams Arena, the only game between the two teams during the regular-season. The game is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN with Dave O'Brien and Steve Lavin on the call.
The Gophers swept the season series with the Badgers last season for the first time since the 1992 conference season (not counting vacated seasons). The Gophers' win at the Kohl Center on Jan. 15 ended a six-game win streak in the series for the Badgers and was also the first win for the locals at the Kohl Center (opened in 1998).
The Gophers were down by as many as 14 points in the aforementioned game last season in Madison and needed a Lawrence Westbrook three-pointer with seconds remaining to put the game in to overtime. Westbrook finished with a career-high 29 points.
Game two of the series was just as memorable. The Gophers used a 10-0 run over the final two minutes of the game to gain the season sweep. Westbrook again led the team to victory, finishing with 16 points.
About the Golden Gophers:
- Golden Gopher Head Coach Tubby Smith's all-time record stands at 443-180 (18th Season) while his Minnesota record is 56-35 (Third Season)
- The Gophers are amongst the nations leaders in many statistical categories. As of the NCAA's most recent stats (Thru games on Feb. 14), Minnesota is 6th in assists per game (17.4), 14th in steals per game (9.1), 14th in blocked shots (6.1), 17th in three-point FG percentage (.394) and 23rd in assist turnover ratio (1.31).
- Individually, Blake Hoffarber is first in the nation in 3-point FG percentage (.493) while Al Nolen is 7th in assist turnover ratio (2.96) and 19th in steals per game (2.4). Also, Damian Johnson joins Nolen on the steals list, as he sits 37th nationally with 2.1 spg.
- Minnesota leads the Big Ten Conference in blocked shots (146: 6.1 bpg), steals (218: 9.1 spg) and is second in defensive field goal percentage (.402).
- Blake Hoffarber is averaging a career-high 11.6 ppg this season and is shooting .516 (94-182) from the field and .493 (69-140) from three-point land, also career highs.
- Hoffarber is averaging 14.1 ppg and is shooting .566 (82-145) from the field and .532 (58-109) from behind the arc over the last 17 games. Lawrence Westbrook is close behind at 13.7 ppg while shooting .506 from the field in that same stretch.
- Westbrook leads Minnesota in scoring for the season with a career-high 13.4 points per game. He joined the Gophers' 1,000 point club with a pair of free throws in the second half against Michigan State on Jan. 23. He enters the Wisconsin game with 1,072 career points, which is tied for 28th on the Gophers' all-time scoring list.
- Ralph Sampson III is the Gophers' leading rebounder with a career-high 6.1 boards per game. He collected his second career double-double, both this season, with 13 points and 10 rebounds at Penn State (2/06).
- Al Nolen will miss the rest of the season after being declared academic ineligible by the NCAA.
- The Gophers went 8-0 this season at Williams Arena during the non-conference schedule. Under Smith, Minnesota is 25-0 in regular season non-conference games at the Barn. Dating back to the 2006-07 season under Jim Molinari, Minnesota has won 27 consecutive non-conference regular season home games.
- Smith is 39-10 (.796) overall at Williams Arena during his two-plus seasons at Minnesota.
- Minnesota is allowing just 60.0 points per game at Williams Arena under Smith (49 games). The Gophers allowed just 58.4 ppg at the Barn in 2008-09 in 19 games and 62.2 in 17 games during the 2007-08 season. Under Smith, opponents have only reached 70 points 11 times in 49 games at the Barn (22% of the time).
About the Badgers:
- Bo Ryan is in his 9th season as the head coach at Wisconsin and 26th season overall.
- Wisconsin (19-6, 9-4) went 1-1 last week, losing to Illinois 63-56 in Madison and defeating Indiana 83-55, also in Madison.
- The Badgers have been without their co-leading scorer Jon Leuer (15.4 ppg) since Jan. 9 with a broken wrist. He has returned to practice but is uncertain for the game on Thursday.
- Minnesota leads the all-time series 93-84. The series dates back to 1900.
- The Gophers are 60-31 against the Badgers in Minneapolis.
- This will be the only regular-season matchup between the two teams this season.
- Minnesota swept the season-series with the Badgers last season. Prior to the victories, the Gophers had dropped 15 of the last 17 with Wisconsin.
- Minnesota won at Wisconsin last season for the first time since Jan. 15,1992 (not including vacated games). Also, the win was the first for Gophers at the Kohl Center, which opened in 1998 (10 attempts).
- Minnesota holds a record of 681-734 all-time within the Big Ten Conference.
- Tubby Smith is 3-2 against Wisconsin as a head coach.