Minnesota still without a Big Ten win heading into date with Wolverines

The Gophers will take on Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday in Williams Arena.

by C.J. Spang

With the bitter aftertaste of a triple-overtime loss against No. 23 Iowa still in their mouths, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team returns home for another tough challenge.

The Gophers (9-6 overall, 0-4 Big Ten) look to end their four-game losing streak against Michigan at Williams Arena on Saturday. Tip-off is at 7 p.m.

“I’m not happy we’re losing,” coach Dan Monson said. “But truthfully, if we’ll stay together, and stick to it, and stay in the moment, and not worry about the past and not worry about how many tough games we have coming up, we’re going to be OK.”

But the losing streak has been hard on everyone in the locker room.

Freshman guard Jamal Abu-Shamala hasn’t seen much time in the four losses, but is still dealing with the defeats.

“It’s tough,” Abu-Shamala said. “I thought we were going to do real well. I still think we have a good chance to go on a run.”

Saturday provides the best opportunity to start a run, as the Gophers take on Illinois, Indiana and Ohio State, following their date with Michigan.

The Wolverines (12-3, 2-2) haven’t won a Big Ten game on the road this season, but their two road losses were at Indiana and Illinois ” two of the Big Ten’s best.

Despite the tough schedule, and the NCAA Tournament looking like nothing more than a fantasy, the team is still confident.

“I think that in this league anyone can go out and get beat any night,” sophomore center Spencer Tollackson said. “I definitely don’t think that the NCAA Tournament is… close to out of reach for us right now.”

But if Minnesota hopes to play any games beyond the Big Ten Tournament, they will have to dramatically improve their free throw shooting.

The Gophers are shooting just 57.7 percent from the charity stripe in four Big Ten games, and was just 5-12 in the three overtimes against Iowa.

“Even though we lost (to Iowa), I think there’s a certain sense of urgency and confidence that we have now,” Tollackson said. “Our spirits our higher than people think right now.”