Gophers head to Purdue in search of a victory

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team used a win at Purdue in 2002 as a catapult en route to a 7-3 Big Ten record.

by Adam Fink

Two years ago this month, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team pulled out a win at an arena in which the team had historically struggled.

In defeating Purdue 87-71 in 2002 at Mackey Arena, the Gophers used the win as part of a surge to a surprising 7-3 final record in the conference.

Discounting the years academic scandal cleared from the record books (1993-99), it was Minnesota’s first win in West Lafayette, Ind., since 1982.

In 2002, Minnesota used the Purdue contest as a solid road win in an unexpected successful start.

This year, the Gophers (8-7, 0-3 Big Ten) need a win at the same arena tonight in hopes of salvaging their season. Game time is 7 p.m.

“It’s a very hard place to play,” said senior Michael Bauer, who scored 10 points in the win during his sophomore campaign. “We have to have a good mindset. This might be the game that could turn things around.”

Defeating the Boilermakers won’t be easy. Prior to the season, tonight’s game appeared tough enough.

But the 23rd-ranked Boilermakers have posted, arguably, the league’s stingiest defense and have two convincing wins to their name.

In defeating conference powers No. 21 Wisconsin and Illinois, Purdue (12-4, 2-1) combined to allow the teams to shoot 35.3 percent and held both opponents to under 55 points.

In addition, Purdue returns last year’s Big Ten defensive player of the year Kenneth Lowe.

“Purdue is best defensive team in the league right now,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “We have got to stay disciplined and get some shots to go in to get some confidence and loosen things up. (Also,) we’ve got to get shots other than guys having to go one-on-one to manufacture.”

Although the Boilermakers scored under 60 points in both wins, their defense has been enough to carry the team thus far.

Lowe is the team’s leading scorer at 13.8 points per game this season. In comparison, Kris Humphries leads Minnesota with an average of 22.5 points per contest.

“In the league, we’re not judged to be very good offensively because of our numbers,” said Purdue coach Gene Keady, who notched his 500th win at the school last week. “Defensively and rebounding, we’re pretty darn good.”

Not only will Minnesota have to counter Purdue’s defense, but the Gophers also need to figure out their own offense to avoid falling to 0-4 in the conference for the first time since 1988.

In Big Ten play, Minnesota’s offense has looked out of sync at times and is only shooting 41.1 percent in conference action.

This doesn’t bother guard Moe Hargrow, who said the team’s focus this week has been solid despite the three consecutive loses.

“What better place to get a win than against Gene Keady and a tough, tenacious Purdue team on the road?” the junior said.

It is that attitude that concerns Keady in his 24th year at Purdue. Earlier this week, Keady said he sees signs Minnesota is improving.

“We think they are ready to break out anytime,” Keady said. “We’ve got to respect them or they will come in and beat us.”

In 2002, the Gophers stumbled down the stretch and earned a berth in the NIT Tournament.

A few more losses and even that might be out of the question this year.