Gophers now must deal with success

C.J. Spang

Minnesota’s men’s basketball team has momentum from something it hasn’t experienced in longer than a month ” a win.

After stymieing then-13th-ranked Indiana 61-42 on Sunday, the Gophers travel to Columbus, Ohio, to take on No. 20 Ohio State at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“Losing takes a toll (on a team),” coach Dan Monson said. “You need some positive reinforcement and winning does that, so hopefully that’s something we can build on.”

Minnesota (10-8, 1-6 Big Ten) showed a spark unseen since the beginning of the conference season.

“We haven’t been really confident as a team offensively and I think this is the kind of game that we really needed to just get going,” freshman guard Jamal Abu-Shamala said. “We just needed a game like that to get our confidence up and get that monkey off our back.”

They’ll need to keep that confidence if they hope to knock off the hot-shooting Buckeyes.

Ohio State (15-3, 4-3 Big Ten) is similar to Indiana in that it’s known as a good shooting team, but also has a big inside presence in senior frontcourt man Terrence Dial.

The Buckeyes are leading the Big Ten in points per game, are second in field goal percentage and three-point percentage against conference foes, and Dials is tied for 12th in conference scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game.

“The key for us is just to have that same focus and that same energy,” senior guard Adam Boone said. “We understood our game plan last game. We have to do that once again and go out there and execute it the way we did before.”

So what is the game plan?

According to Boone, the Gophers need to contest shots and limit the Buckeyes’ open looks, something they had been unable to do in previous games.

Before the game against Indiana, Minnesota’s opponents were shooting 45 percent from the floor.

But the Gophers held the Hoosiers to just 32.1 percent ” well below their season average of 49.5 percent.

And with their newfound confidence, attitude and even hunger, they might be able to do that again.

“Every game from now on is sort of like a must-win,” Abu-Shamala said. “You can sense a whole different kind of attitude around and guys are excited. They want to get back out and compete.”