Minn. positive despite 1-4 stretch

The Gophers faced the toughest part of their schedule during that time.

Instilling optimism.

That’s how Tubby Smith plans on building up the Minnesota men’s basketball team’s confidence after the Gophers lost their fourth game in five tries on Sunday.

During the course of time between losses against No. 11 Michigan State (on two occasions), No. 14 Indiana, No. 8 Wisconsin, and Ohio State, Smith has been demanding of his team – calling out individual players and conducting grueling practices.

But after breaking his team down for weeks, Smith said it is probably time to start building it back up.

“No one responds to criticism very well,” Smith said. “You have to be as positive as you can, and that’s what we are trying to be.”

The first area Smith can point at to help the Gophers (13-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten) restore their confidence is their incredibly tough schedule as of late.

Four of the Gophers’ five conference losses have come to ranked teams, the lone exception being a road loss to Ohio State – last year’s National Champion runner-up.

“It’s not like you are playing nobodies, you’re playing some pretty good talent, so let’s not panic,” Smith said to his players.

On Monday, Minnesota, which leaves today for a Wednesday meeting with Northwestern (7-12, 0-8) in Evanston, Ill., held an early morning team meeting to make sure everyone was on the same page.

“You don’t want (losses) to linger, so you try to address the issues as quickly as possible and get things out in the open,” Smith said.

Welcome back, Eric

For more than two years, Eric Gordon, Indiana’s sensational freshman shooting guard, has been anticipating the more-than-hostile environment that awaits him when the Hoosiers (18-3 7-1) play at Illinois (10-13, 2-8).

Gordon, who is expected to be a top-five NBA draft pick this summer, makes his first trip to Champaign, Ill., since he withdrew his commitment to play for Illini coach Bruce Weber once Kelvin Sampson was named head coach at Indiana.

When asked by the Chicago Tribune in October 2006 what he expected from his first visit to the Illinois Assembly Hall, Gordon said, “A lot of boos; a lot of them.”

Sampson said he understands it’ll likely be just “another game” for Gordon, but expects his leading scorer to play well, despite the scrutiny he will be under.

“He is a human being. I’m sure that will be something that is on his mind. But I think once he takes the floor and plays the game, he will be fine.”

Co-Players of the Week

Indiana senior forward D.J. White and Purdue freshman guard E’Twuan Moore were named Big Ten Co-Players of the Week on Monday.

White nabbed his fourth weekly honor of the season by posting back-to-back double-doubles. In Thursday’s loss at Wisconsin, White scored 22 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

On Sunday, White led the Hoosiers to victory over Northwestern with a Big Ten career-high 26 points and 13 boards.

Moore averaged 18.0 points in consecutive wins for the surprising Boilermakers (17-5 8-1) this week.

On Saturday, Moore scored 20 of his game-high 24 points at Illinois in the second half. In an eight-minute stretch during the final 20 minutes of play in Champaign Moore went 8-of-9 from the floor.