Men’s hoops eager to get back on winning track come Sunday

Adam Fink

No amount of mouthwash that can take away the sour taste lingering in the mouth of Minnesota’s men’s basketball team after its loss Nov. 19.

“Any time you take a tough loss,” guard Adam Boone said, “you don’t get the taste out of your mouth until you win. I don’t like to lose.”

In their 66-54 loss to Utah in the second round of the preseason NIT, the Gophers struggled with ball movement, balanced scoring and in the process found themselves frustrated.

One week later, the Gophers’ focus has shifted from their loss to Sunday’s game against Furman at Williams Arena.

In addition, Minnesota (1-1) has gotten over the thought that they could be in New York this week for the preseason NIT Final Four. Instead it has given the team 10 days between games to practice.

“You win some, you lose some,” Moe Hargrow said. “It’s still early in the season.”

The past week of practice has been more intense than earlier in the season. In addition, the coaching staff has been on the players’ cases to improve and limit mental mistakes.

Also, the team is making adjustments. For example, Utah knew the Gophers’ offensive sets and was able to disrupt the offense.

“The biggest thing is, while they knew our offense, we didn’t execute,” said Hargrow, who tallied eight points against the Utes. “If we would have executed, it wouldn’t have mattered if they knew what we were running.”

On the defensive end, the Gophers are trying to make opponents work for all 35 seconds of the shot clock.

In Minnesota’s first two games, the Gophers had a tendency to relax near the end of possessions, resulting in easy scores. This also built frustration.

“We would play 25 seconds (against Utah) and then give up an easy basket,” said Kris Humphries, who was named Big Ten player of the week Monday. “We are trying to learn.”

In Dan Monson’s four previous years as Gophers coach, he has always started at least 3-0. But Monson views this year differently.

Many of those undefeated starts came at the hands of inferior opponents.

“We didn’t have as much practice time before the season started,” Monson said. “We are catching up with it now. We are finding out what kind of team we are.”

The only thing Monson might be able to find out when the Gophers play Furman is whether the team can rebound from a loss.

The Paladins went 14-17 last season in the Southern Conference. Forward Maleye Ndoye scored 32 points in the team’s season opening loss to James Madison.

Regardless of the opponent, the Gophers want to get back onto the hardwood against an opponent after the 10-day hiatus.

And removing the bad taste from their mouths would be a solid start.

Hagen injures ankle

Jeff Hagen, one of the first players off the Gophers bench, sprained his left ankle in practice Monday and is doubtful for Sunday’s game.

Monson said the 7-foot center is questionable for next Wednesday’s game at Virginia.

In other injury news, senior Michael Bauer tweaked his Achilles’ tendon Monday and was limited to riding a stationary bike in practice Tuesday.

And junior Brent Lawson sat out practice again Tuesday while recovering from a thigh injury.

Monson said both Bauer and Lawson are day-to-day and expects both to be back at practice no later than Saturday.