Gophers show their versatility on defense

In its last two games, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team has played two defenses.

Adam Fink

Earlier in the season, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team found itself bombarded with questions about its defense.

Could they contain perimeter shooters? Would post players tear apart the Gophers’ interior defense?

But the lingering question was if their zone or man-to-man defense would be solid enough to earn a conference win.

In their last two games, the Gophers have revealed they can play both types of defense. Although Minnesota lost at Purdue, against Indiana and is still searching for the first Big Ten win, the team at least showed it can create stops.

And heading into Wednesday’s game against Michigan State, Minnesota wants to continue to build on its improved defense.

While facing the Spartans – one of the league’s more efficient offensive teams – can be daunting, Minnesota has reason for optimism.

In losing to the Boilermakers last Wednesday, the Gophers switched to a man-to-man defense after Purdue claimed a 15-point lead.

Purdue guards Kenneth Lowe and David Teague both scored in double figures and got comfortable against the Gophers defense quickly.

And against Indiana on Saturday at Williams Arena, Minnesota went to a zone defense after finding itself in an 18-point hole. At that point, Hoosiers forward A.J. Moye had scored 11 of his 20 points.

In both games, the Gophers (8-9, 0-5 Big Ten) came back to tie the contest after switching defenses before eventually losing.

“It’s odd because we went into the Purdue game thinking that the best way to defend them was zoning them and they got comfortable and lit us up,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “We start man-to-man against Indiana and we went to zone and it seemed to slow them down.”

Now, the key seems to be finding the right defense against each opponent.

In a league in which teams don’t depend on offense to win, the Gophers hope to come across a defensive answer before facing another double-digit deficit.

And that could lead to the ultimate reward: a win.

Humphries makes list

Kris Humphries was named a mid-season candidate for the John R. Wooden Award and All-American Team on Monday.

The freshman is one of 30 candidates. Humphries has averaged 22.4 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this season.

The 10-member team will be announced March 30. One player from that team will be named player of the year.

Wisconsin’s Devin Harris is the only other Big Ten candidate.

Wright earns honor

Indiana’s Bracey Wright was named Big Ten co-offensive player of the week Monday.

Wright scored 22 points and added eight rebounds in the Hoosiers’ 86-81 overtime victory.

“It is a hard match-up because he is really shooting the ball well,” said Purdue coach Gene Keady, whose team plays the Hoosiers on Tuesday night in a battle of first-place clubs. “I am not sure anybody in the league can stop him, because he can penetrate, twirl dribble, take it to the hole and hit threes.”

Wisconsin’s Mike Wilkinson was named the other player of the week.

Tucker in town

Gophers recruit Enrico Tucker made an appearance at Williams Arena and Target Center on Saturday.

The 5-foot-11-inch guard and member of the University of San Diego High School team attended Minnesota’s game against Indiana.

Tucker also played in the Timberwolves Shootout against Tartan High School and finished with 13 points on 3-for-18 shooting.

Tucker will join the Gophers next year.