GOPHERS RETURN TO THE NIT
After a 11-win turnaround from a year ago, Minnesota was rewarded with a berth in the NIT with a No. 4 seed. The Gophers are making their 13th appearance in the NIT (1996 and 1998 appearances were later vacated). This is the Gophers’ fifth NIT berth since 2001, winning at least one game in each tournament. In 2003, the Gophers advanced to the Final Four in New York before falling to Georgetown in the semifinals. The Gophers last appeared in 2006, defeating Wake Forest in the first round before losing at Cincinnati in the second round. Overall, Minnesota has an 18-10 all-time record in the NIT (not including vacated games).
Minnesota has a history of success in the NIT, winning the 1993 championship, beating Georgetown in the title game. The Gophers captured the 1998 title but it was later vacated due to NCAA violations.
The Gophers face No. 5 seed Maryland in the first round of the NIT this evening. The teams have met three times previously with the Terrapins winning each time. They last played in 2005 as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge in College Park with Maryland emerging 83-66. The previous meetings came in 1960 and 1961 with the Terps sweeping a home and home series.
Minnesota is 12-19 all-time against the ACC but has only faced an ACC team once in the NIT. The Gophers lost to Virginia, 58-55, in the 1980 NIT title game.
BIG TEN tournament WRAP-UP
The Gophers are 8-11 all-time in Big Ten Tournament play.
Minnesota reached the Big Ten semifinals for the third time and the first since 2005.
Minnesota’s win over Indiana in the semis ended a 10-game losing streak against ranked opponents. Minnesota is 2-0 against Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament
The Gophers defeated Northwestern in the opening round, improving to 2-1 against the Wildcats.
Lawrence McKenzie led Minnesota with 41 points in three games (13.7 ppg) while hitting 8-15 three-pointers.
Minnesota out-rebounded its opponents by four boards a game (32.3-28.3).
Damian Johnson was Minnesota’s leading rebounder at 4.7 boards per game.
Minnesota had only played in three games decided by five points or less entering the Big Ten Tournament. All three of the Gophers were decided by less than three at the Tournament. They were decided by a combined eight points.
TWENTY FOR TUBBY
With the win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, Tubby Smith secured his 15th straight 20-win season, the longest active streak in the nation. Smith’s streak began in 1994 and has stretched across four institutions (Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota). Smith has never had a losing season and his teams have reached the postseason every year since 1994.
GOPHERS AND TWENTY WINS
Minnesota reached the 20-win plateau for just the second time since 1993 with its victory over Indiana in the Big Ten semifinals. Not including vacated seasons, it marks just the eighth time Minnesota has earned 20 victories in a season.
MINNESOTA 20-win seasons
Season Record Coach
1972-73 21-5 Musselman
1976-77 24-3 Dutcher
1979-80 21-11 Dutcher
1981-82 23-6 Dutcher
1989-90 23-9 Haskins
1992-93 22-10 Haskins
2004-05 21-11 Monson
2007-08 20-13 Smith
BLAKE’S BIG SHOTS
Just three years after freshman Blake Hoffarber earned the 2005 ESPY for the “Best Play”, he has added to his career resume of miraculous game-winning shots. Down 58-57 to Indiana with 1.5 seconds remaining in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals, Hoffarber caught a three-quarter court pass from Travis Busch in traffic, spun and nailed an 18-footer as time expired to send Minnesota to the semifinals with one of the most thrilling victories in recent history.
In 2005, Hoffarber earned the ESPY after swishing a basket while sitting on the floor as regulation time expired. The shot sent Hopkins High School to overtime where the Royals ended up capturing the state title. Hoffarber became the first high school athlete to win an ESPY.
The Big Ten Conference announced March 10 that senior Lawrence McKenzie was named Third Team All-Big Ten by the coaches. Also, fellow senior Dan Coleman was named Honorable Mention All-Big Ten by the coaches. Both players were named honorable mention by the media.
Coleman was also named to 2007-08 NABC All-District First Team. The last Gopher to make NABC All-District first team honors was Vincent Grier in 2005. Coleman is the 14th Gopher to earn First Team honors since the NABC went to separate teams in 1958 and just the seventh since 1990. Coleman joined Raymar Morgan (Michigan State), Drew Neitzel (Michigan State), Dominic James (Marquette) and Brian Butch (Wisconsin).
MAC BREAKS HIS OWN MARK
Lawrence McKenzie surpassed his own record for three-pointers in a season. With three treys against Illinois in the Big Ten semifinals, McKenzie has 79 for the season, passing the 78 he drained in 2006-07. He is shooting at a much more efficiently as well, hitting 42.9 percent of his threes after hitting 37.7 percent a year ago.
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 309 points since and currently is 15th place on the career points list with 1,317. 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 Illinois on March 15, Coleman now has 113 career blocks, eighth most in school history. Coleman has also played in 126 career games, the third most in team history.
Freshman Blake Hoffarber not only has the sixth-highest three-point field accuracy in Big Ten Conference at .429 (67-156), but looks to move in on teammate Lawrence McKenzie’s record for three point field goals in a season (78) set last year.
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) 67
Voshon Lenard (1991-92) 51
Kevin Burleson (1999-00) 44
Michael Bauer (2000-01) 34
Quincy Lewis (1995-96) 26
THE TUBBY EFFECT
Coaching apparently makes a difference. Tubby Smith took over a club that finished the 2006-07 season with a record of 9-22, including 3-13 within the Big Ten Conference. The current 11-game change is the largest season turnaround in school history and is tied for the second-best turnaround in Division I this season. With eight wins in conference play, the Gophers are tied with Purdue for the biggest conference turnaround.
COMPARING SCHOOL RECORDS
University Change Coach
2007-08 from 2006-07 +11 wins Smith
1979-80 from 1978-79 +10 wins Dutcher
2004-05 from 2003-04 +9 wins Monson
COMPARING NATIONAL RECORDS (as of Mar. 16)
University 06-07 07-08 Change
UNC Wilmington 7-22 20-13 +13
Minnesota 9-22 20-13 +11
Arizona State 8-22 19-12 +11
Cleveland State 10-21 21-12 +11
UNC Asheville 12-19 23-9 +11
Iona 2-28 12-20 +10
Miami (Fla.) 12-20 22-10 +10
Northern Colorado 4-24 13-16 +9
Delaware 5-26 14-17 +9
Tennessee Martin 8-23 17-16 +9
SEASON RECORD WATCH
Minnesota has 288 steals on the season, which ranks second all-time in school history. The record of 292 was set in 2004-05. Al Nolen ranks eighth in season steals all-time with 60. His 32 steals in conference play ties him with Quincy Lewis for seventh all-time. Damian Johnson has 34 thefts in conference action, which ranks sixth all-time. His total of 55 for the season ranks in a tie for ninth all-time.
The Gophers also have 503 assists, which ranks fourth all-time in school history. The record of 558 was set in 1989-90. Nolen tied for ninth all-time with Kevin Burleson (2001-02) and Arriel McDonald (1991-92) with 68 assists in Big Ten play this season.
Minnesota’s bench has provided a big punch this season, outscoring its opponents in 25 of the team’s 33 games. The Gophers hold a cumulative 749-499 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 32 of the team’s 33 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.
Minnesota has relied heavily on its two freshmen, Al Nolen and Blake Hoffarber this season.
Nolen is averaging 4.3 points, 3.6 assists, 1.9 steals and 22.4 minutes per game this season. He has tied for or led the Gophers in assists in 20 of the 32 games he has played in, including a career-high eight Feb. 9 vs. Iowa. He has recorded 60 steals (1.9 spg), which ranks him second overall in the Big Ten and ranks seventh in the Big Ten in assists at 3.6 per game and fifth in the conference with a 1.97 assist/turnover ratio.
Hoffarber is averaging 8.4 points for the Gophers this season and is shooting .443 (93-210) from the floor, including .429 (67-156) from behind the arc, the sixth 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, eight points in another start vs. Iowa on Feb. 9, 10 in a win over Ohio State (3/1) and had 14 points to go along with six rebounds at Illinois (3/8).
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. Also, Johnson contributed five points, six rebounds and a steal against Wisconsin (2/16). He guided the Gophers to a win over Indiana in the Big Ten quarterfinals, scoring a team-high 17 points and grabbing six rebounds.
Johnson is sixth on the team in scoring at 6.9 ppg, second on the team in rebounding at 4.5 rpg, leads the team in blocks with 42 (1.3 bpg) and has the second most steals (55, 1.7 spg), which is fifth-most in the conference.
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. He harassed Gordon into just 4-13 shooting and five turnovers in the Big Ten quarterfinals as well.