Gophers’ second half foes familiar ones

by Adam Fink

The message Minnesota’s men’s basketball coach Dan Monson told his players late last week was simple.

They’ve seen them all.

Despite having lost to all of the Big Ten teams except Michigan this year, Minnesota players know what to expect the second time they face six Big Ten teams.

Beginning with Saturday’s loss at Michigan State, in which Minnesota played well considering the hostile environment and the opponent, the Gophers’ next five games will be against teams they played in January.

While all were losses – two in overtime – Monson believes the Gophers (9-14, 1-10 Big Ten) will benefit from knowing that a few extra plays at the end of the game is the difference between a win and a loss.

“Iowa probably handled us the best (on Jan. 13 at Williams Arena) and we play them again yet (on Feb. 28),” Monson said.

“I think we have a lot of work to do but we showed signs when we played them in the first half. That is what we have to focus on.”

Minnesota was tied or led with 10 minutes to go in six of its first eight games. Despite coming up on the short end, it provided a learning experience.

Monson said he hopes that translates to the Gophers getting a few more wins under their belt before the Big Ten Tournament begins in March.

“That is what we have circled on our calendar now,” Minnesota’s fifth-year coach said. “Yet we can’t go in there without some wins and playing better basketball. We’ve still got a ways to go to get to the level we need to compete in that tournament.”

Monson said specifically the Gophers’ team defense has improved, as well as the ball movement.

Forward Stan Gaines agrees with Monson, adding the Gophers have shown they can be competitive and dangerous down the stretch.

“I feel our team is getting better and making strides,” Gaines said. “We definitely feel like there is not a team in the conference we can’t play with us. Teams might be worried about playing us not knowing which Minnesota team is going to show up.”

Kline out

When Minnesota lost to Indiana on Jan. 24 in overtime, the Hoosiers’ Sean Kline was a key reason.

The sophomore scored 13 points and added nine rebounds.

Kline won’t have another crack at Minnesota when the two teams meet Wednesday night in Bloomington, Ind.

On Sunday, Indiana coach Mike Davis announced Kline is out indefinitely with a significant right knee injury.

“We know he is out for a couple of games,” Davis said. “It doesn’t look good. We need players to step up even when Sean was there.”

Kline, averaging 7.1 points and four rebounds per game, suffered the injury against Purdue Saturday.

Harris honored

Wisconsin’s Devin Harris was named Big Ten player of the week on Monday.

The junior averaged 24.5 points in two wins last week. Saturday, Harris surpassed 30 points for the third time in his last six outings.

“Devin had a really deserving week,” Badgers coach Bo Ryan said. “The nice part about what Devin’s doing is Devin is doing it within the framework of what we do everyday at practice.”

Wisconsin sits in first place in the conference but plays four of its final six games on the road.

Keady nominated

Purdue coach Gene Keady is among 16 finalists for the Basketball Hall of Fame. Keady was nominated in the coaches’ category, along with three other candidates.

The new Hall of Fame members will be announced April 5 at the NCAA Final Four in San Antonio.