Gophers hope Barn is rocking against Purdue

Big Ten men’s basketball fans are notorious for getting under the skin of opposing players and coaches.
Former victims include Purdue’s Brian Cardinal, Northwestern’s Evan Eschmeyer and, of course, Indiana’s Bobby Knight.
With a three-game home streak up next for the Gophers, they hope tradition is on their side and three wins come their way — thanks in part to their fans.
“If you have 14,000 people screaming your name, you’re going to feel it,” said Minnesota senior forward John-Blair Bickerstaff.
The feeling will start Wednesday night when Purdue visits Williams Arena for the Gophers fourth conference game of the season. Indiana (Saturday) and Iowa (Jan. 24) will follow.
In a Big Ten season with much parity throughout the middle of the conference, home games are even more crucial.
Minnesota coach Dan Monson said his team gets the feeling that every time they step on the floor at The Barn they have the opportunity to win.
Opportunities Minnesota (13-3, 1-2 ) must convert.
“We have to hold serve at home,” Monson said. “Every time you go on the road there is a severe home court advantage. We have a great one here and we need to utilize it.”
As always, the Boilermakers (11-4, 3-1) will be a tough test for the Gophers. Purdue swept Minnesota last season, although Monson considers this version not the typical Boilermakers.
Monson said Purdue will bring a more athletic style to this season’s game against Minnesota — led by leading scorer Rodney Smith (16 points per game) and senior point guard Carson Cunningham (5 assists per game).
“They are a different Purdue team than I have seen in the past,” Monson said. “They are more wide open, playing smaller, quicker lineups.”
Regardless of the type of team they go up against, the Gophers are going to have to start better offensively.
In the three previous Big Ten games, Minnesota has scored a total of just 72 first half points, as opposed to 118 after the break.
Monson said the sort of holes the Gophers have dug themselves cannot continue and they must be more productive early on.
Bickerstaff agrees.
“Every possession is going to be a war (against Purdue),” Bickerstaff. “You can’t afford to take one possession off.”
With 13 wins, Minnesota has already turned some heads. But with three straight wins at home, the Gophers will cause plenty of people to do an about-face.
“This team has a lot of character. They showed that at Ohio State, and they’ve showed that all season,” Monson said. “Whether we win or lose, we’re not going to go away.”
Tip-off for Saturday’s game against the Hoosiers has been switched from 11:17 a.m. to 11:47 a.m. because of the presidential inauguration.

John R. Carter covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]