Joel Przybilla accepted his second Big Ten player of the week award Monday.
But beyond the individual accomplishment, the recognition says something about the play of the Gophers men’s basketball team.
“When things like that aren’t happening, usually good things aren’t happening,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “Normally they don’t give that award to somebody who’s lost two basketball games in the week. So, I think it’s a team accomplishment, also.”
Przybilla scored 33 points in Minnesota’s (12-9, 4-7 Big Ten) 77-75 upset of No. 10 Indiana on Wednesday. The center also had 14 boards, three assists and three blocked shots.
The sophomore was honored as player of the week on Jan. 17 after Minnesota defeated Iowa and Indiana the week before. This time, however, the award means even more.
“(Indiana) recruited me, and they’re a top-10 team in the country,” Przybilla said.
Przybilla’s next showcase is Thursday, when the seventh-place Gophers (Minnesota is in a three-way tie with Wisconsin and Iowa) host Illinois.
While the Gophers bask in a comeback win against the Hoosiers, they are slowed by the season-ending injury to teammate John-Blair Bickerstaff. The Gophers forward underwent surgery Monday to repair the fracture in his right tibia, an injury he suffered during the first half of the Indiana game.
The operation was successful, and full recovery is expected in 16 to 18 weeks.
“That’s something that emotionally, this team has taken very hard, and physically, we’ve been trying to find some different players to pick up the slack and learn the small forward position,” Monson said. In 20 games, Bickerstaff averaged 7.7 ppg and 5.4 rpg.
Send in Sanden
Junior Kyle Sanden is gradually making his way back into games. The 6-foot-11 center/forward has stepped on the court in just four games this season after starting out the year academically ineligible.
“I’m not afraid to play him. It’s got to be in spurts,” Monson said. “He won’t play 18 straight minutes. He won’t even play 10 minutes. I’d be surprised if he gets into that kind of shape all season.”
Monson said he wasn’t worried about Sanden getting into the flow of the game.
“He’s actually been very good about asking to come out. Even one time I asked, ‘Are you ready to go back in?’ He said, ‘Give me another minute,'” Monson said. “He’s very mature about understanding what his role is.”
Sarah Mitchell covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]