Gophers can get back to .500 with win

Minnesota will return to the Barn on Saturday for a 1 p.m. tip-off.

Minnesota men’s basketball coach Tubby Smith delivers many reoccurring messages to his players, one of which is, “Things usually aren’t as good as they seem and they usually aren’t as bad as they seem.”

It appears the Gophers’ first-year coach knows what he is talking about.

Six days after being left for dead following a painful home loss to Wisconsin, Minnesota has a chance to jump back to .500 in the Big Ten with a win over Iowa on Saturday afternoon at Williams Arena.

On Sunday, the Gophers (14-7 overall, 4-5 Big Ten) scored a season-low 47 points and were accused of being pretenders, rather than contenders, after their 11-2 start.

But after scoring a season-high 92 points in a victory at Northwestern on Wednesday night, Minnesota has jumped right back into the middle of the pack and postseason discussion.

Chances are if the Gophers are able to have six players score in double figures each game as was the case against the Wildcat’s in Evanston, Ill., Minnesota will win a lot of games down the stretch of its Big Ten slate.

But statistics say that probably won’t happen Saturday. Other than Purdue, the Hawkeyes (11-13, 4-7) may be the biggest surprise of the conference under first-year coach Todd Lickliter.

Despite averaging a conference-worst 56.8 points per game, Iowa has some impressive wins to its name.

By slowing down the game pace, the Hawkeyes beat Michigan State 43-36 on Jan. 12 and Ohio State 53-48 on Feb. 2 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa, which allows a stingy 57.4 points per game, also pushed No. 8 Wisconsin to the limit Wednesday night – something Minnesota couldn’t do Sunday – before falling to the Badgers 60-54.


Junior center Jon Williams sat out Wednesday night’s game in Evanston while sick with the flu, but should be back in the Gophers’ lineup on Saturday.

Smith sat senior guard Lawrence McKenzie to start Wednesday’s game because he missed a study session earlier in the week.