Monson says toughest yet to come for Minnesota

by Sarah Mitchell

Unable to beat Wisconsin — a team that has seen similar struggles this season — at home on Saturday, the Gophers men’s basketball team are definite underdogs heading into Wednesday’s matchup with Indiana.
Minnesota (11-9, 3-7 Big Ten) plays host to ninth-ranked Indiana, a team Gophers coach Dan Monson said, “is playing about as good as anybody in the country.”
“I think their roles that are defined are some of the best in the country,” he added. “They don’t have a great team and I mean that with a huge compliment.
“It’s not a bunch of individuals. They all understand what is expected of them and what their teammates are going to be doing at all times. They just don’t beat themselves.”
The Gophers struggled with the Hoosiers in mid-January. Indiana had five players score in double figures, led by guard A.J. Guyton’s 19 points, to beat Minnesota 86-81.
So this time around, Monson’s calling out the big dogs.
“We’ve got a huge task ahead of us,” Monson said. “We’ve got to get ourselves back and probably play our basketball game of the year on Wednesday.”
With its loss Saturday, Minnesota fell to sole position of tenth place in Big Ten standings. Fifth-ranked Ohio State (16-3, 7-1) leads the conference.

Even worse
Northwestern coach Kevin O’Neill handles failure well.
The Wildcats are proud owners of an 0-9 mark in conference play, earning sole possession of last place in conference standings.
O’Neill is optimistic, but not about this year’s team. He said the program’s just playing to get better for next year and that future Wildcats stars are starting to shine.
“We play like we’ve never seen a basketball before,” O’Neill said. “But overall I’m not disappointed with the progress our guys are making. We’re just over our heads a little bit. When we play Indiana we’re over out heads. When we play Michigan State we’re over our heads. Purdue: We’re over our heads.”
O’Neill said he is definitely ruling out postseason play as well.
“We know we’re not going to be a postseason team unless we win four games in four days at the Big Ten tournament,” O’Neill said. “A snowball has a better chance of passing through hell than that happening.”
At least he’s honest.
Award time
Michigan State senior Morris Peterson was named Big Ten player of the week. Petersen averaged 24 points and seven rebounds, and shot over 57 percent in the Spartans wins over Michigan and Connecticut last week.
Against the Wolverines, Peterson posted a career-high 32 points on 11-of-15 shooting. The 32 points were the most scored by a Big Ten player this season.

Sarah Mitchell covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]