Gophers’ struggles temper expectations for upsetting Indiana

Minnesota is 3-7 since losing a close game at Indiana last month.

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins dribbles past a Badger on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, at Williams Arena.

Amanda Snyder, Daily File Photo

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins dribbles past a Badger on Thursday, Feb. 14, 2013, at Williams Arena.

by Andrew Krammer

Minnesota’s single-digit loss to Indiana at Assembly Hall on Jan. 12 left many Gophers fans smelling blood in the water for Tuesday’s rematch at Williams Arena.

Minnesota, then ranked No. 8 in the nation, spotted then-No. 5 Indiana a 23-point lead entering halftime. It responded with 52 second-half points to pull within three points with 19 seconds left, before ultimately falling short.

Six weeks later, head coach Tubby Smith’s squad has scored more than 52 points just twice in its past five games. The Gophers haven’t topped 30 points in a single half in those five games.

Minnesota’s offensive struggles and 3-8 record in its past 11 games have tempered high expectations for the rematch with the Hoosiers.

“I hope they keep it respectable,” University of Minnesota junior Garrison Shepard said. “When you lose to teams like Northwestern, lose by over 20 to Iowa, it puts a damper on your season.”

Many fans expected Minnesota to contend for a Big Ten title after a strong start to the season, but some have given up on this year before it’s over.

“Anything can happen,” University senior Jacob Dunn said, “but after that Ohio State game, I’m expecting a 30-point loss.”

The manner in which the team has lost recently — 21- and 26-point losses at Iowa and Ohio State, respectively — has Smith questioning his team’s psyche.

Smith had a sports psychologist talk to his team during the past week, freshman Wally Ellenson said.

“I hope they come out angry,” Smith said, “[and] play with a sense of urgency.”

Sophomore point guard Andre Hollins, who’s in an uncharacteristically bad shooting slump, said the Gophers need to stop the excuses.

“We need to get this thing together immediately,” Hollins said. “There’s not much more I can say about it.”

Minnesota has struggled with the basics, and Smith said he’s stripped his team’s practices down to the fundamentals in recent weeks.

The Gophers had a season-high 24 turnovers in their loss at Ohio State on Feb. 20. That turnover problem, coupled with the team’s shooting slump, has Minnesota’s offense playing like one of the worst in the conference.

Hollins has contributed to the Gophers’ poor shooting. In the team’s first seven Big Ten games, the sophomore shot 49 percent from three-point range.

In the past seven, Hollins has made 29 percent of his three-pointers.

“I’m still young. There are things I can work on,” Hollins said. “But bottom line: We need to win.”

As Minnesota continues to struggle, Hollins said Smith has turned up the heat in practice, making the entire team run sprints when one person turns it over.

“We had a two-a-day practice on Saturday,” Hollins said. “That was intense with all the turnovers.”