Minnesota looking to build on success against Michigan State

The Gophers have won two of their past three games and play at home Saturday.

C.J. Spang

It’s been a week and a half of firsts for Minnesota’s men’s basketball.

The Gophers picked up their first Big Ten win Jan. 29 against Indiana by a score of 61-42. On Wednesday, they picked up their first Big Ten road win against Penn State, 77-66.

Minnesota (11-9, 2-6 Big Ten) will look to beat the 18th-ranked Spartans for the first time since Jan. 18, 2003, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Williams Arena.

Michigan State (18-5, 6-3 Big Ten) has won three straight, outscoring those opponents by a combined 45 points.

“The first key, anytime you play (Michigan State), is to make it a half-court game,” senior guard Adam Boone said. “They like to get the ball out both after makes and misses and running down the floor; we have to slow down their transition game.”

Also, in their three consecutive wins, the Spartans outrebounded their opponents by an average of 12 rebounds per game.

But in their most recent loss, they were outrebounded by Michigan 28-25.

“A big thing with them, always when you play Michigan State, is rebounding,” sophomore guard Rico Tucker said. “Keeping them off the offensive glass and trying to get offensive boards.”

Minnesota also will be looking to get production from its bench like it did against Penn State, when the Gophers bench outscored the Nittany Lions bench 34-13 on the night.

Sophomore forward Dan Coleman scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Tucker added 11 points. Both played limited minutes.

Both sophomores have had somewhat disappointing seasons thus far, playing lesser roles than they were accustomed to after promising freshmen campaigns.

But they showed flashes of greatness against Penn State ” something that Minnesota will need once again if it hopes to knock off Michigan State.

“I think coming off the bench and providing some

production at this point in the season, the way things have been going, is helpful,” Tucker said. “I think it gives everybody on the team a different outlook ” just brings energy and instills confidence in everybody.

“(It) doesn’t matter if you’re starting or coming off the bench, you have to contribute when your time comes.”

Having more confidence will be vital for a Gophers team that, according to coach Dan Monson, has been lacking confidence all season.

“I think we had a lot of guys showing confidence both offensively and defensively (against Penn State),” Boone said. “And weathering the storm, being down 10-0, that was very key (Wednesday) night in not really getting down on ourselves or getting worried ” we just kept playing.”

That was another first for a Minnesota squad that has crumbled more than once in previous games, and something the Gophers can’t do if they don’t want to be buried Saturday by Michigan State’s high-powered offense.