Win four or out the door

Only one team has won four straight games in the Big Ten Tournament.

by Adam Fink

Earlier this week, Kris Humphries pretty much summed up what everyone outside of Minnesota’s men’s basketball team already knew.

“It’s the NCAA (Tournament) or we’re coming home,” Humphries said.

The Gophers (11-17, 3-13 Big Ten) must win four games in four days at the Big Ten Tournament – starting at 1:30 p.m. today against Purdue – to earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

If they don’t, their season will end with the Gophers walking off the court of the Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Iowa is the only team to ever win four Big Ten Tournament games in as many days, earning a trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2001 after being a sixth seed in the Big Ten Tournament.

But that hasn’t discouraged the Gophers, this year’s 10th seed, from remaining optimistic – a trait they have carried all season.

“This is what our season is all about,” Minnesota forward Stan Gaines said. “We play until we lose.”

While looking at the task Minnesota must accomplish to keep its season alive can be overwhelming, just winning game one won’t be easy.

The Boilermakers have lost four of their last five games and are staggering into the tournament. However, Purdue’s one win during that stretch came against Minnesota on Feb. 21.

Boilermakers coach Gene Keady said he has his team believing they are NCAA Tournament material and that can make for a dangerous opponent.

With a 17-12 record, including 7-9 in the conference, Purdue needs to make a run this weekend or its bubble will likely burst.

If their previous game against the Gophers is any indication, the Boilermakers should be breathing easily.

Purdue didn’t have a field goal for nearly 10 minutes and still won 65-47 in Minneapolis last month.

The Gophers started the game flat and never mounted any sort of a comeback.

“For whatever reason, the intensity just wasn’t there,” Minnesota guard Adam Boone said. “There is no way you are going to beat any team in the Big Ten if you don’t have that.”

Also, the Gophers never adjusted to Purdue’s physical nature.

The Boilermakers tend to shut down the passing lanes and make it difficult to run offensive sets.

Humphries, the Big Ten’s freshman of the year and the conference’s leading scorer and rebounder, was limited to 14 points and a season-low three rebounds in the last loss to Purdue.

“In a game like that, the refs obviously aren’t going to make every call,” Humphries said. “From a personal standpoint, I need to be patient and try to catch the Purdue guys in situations where they can’t double- and triple-team me after the ball is being moved.”

With the loss behind them, the Gophers said they believe they will be ready to grind out the game.

If they win, they will be one game closer to making the Big Dance. If they don’t, the off-season begins Friday.

Barn notes

ï Following last Saturday’s win against Penn State, the Gophers finished with a home attendance average of 12,228. The average is down approximately 400 fans per game from last season.

ï Minnesota is 1-4 in Big Ten Tournament games, excluding games vacated following the academic scandal. The lone win came in 2002 against Penn State.

ï The Gophers-Purdue winner will play Friday night against second-seeded Wisconsin.