Indiana game is a chance to rebound after a letdown

Bob Wothe

In every sport and at every level, there are invariably “sandwich” games.

These are games that, as the name suggests, are sandwiched between two seemingly more- significant games.

For Minnesota’s men’s basketball team, its game against Northwestern on Wednesday was exactly that.

The Gophers were coming off a signature win over the Badgers, and, though they didn’t say it, might have been looking ahead to their game Saturday at Indiana.

Now that the Gophers have choked on the meat of the sandwich, they’ll need to make sure to thoroughly chew the bread.

Minnesota (16-7, 6-4 Big Ten) travels to Bloomington, Ind., to take on Indiana (10-10, 5-4) in a battle for fourth place in the Big Ten at 2 p.m. at Assembly Hall.

“This is going to be a game we think about all night – every play, every mistake,” junior Vincent Grier said after scoring 32 points in the Northwestern loss.

Wednesday’s loss was full of mistakes for Grier and the rest of his teammates to think about.

Minnesota managed to lose 55-53 despite shooting 20 more free throws and grabbing 21 more rebounds than Northwestern. The easy suspect was a lackluster offensive effort that resulted in 23 turnovers and just six made field goals other than Grier’s nine.

“We obviously made a lot of mistakes on the offensive end,” Brent Lawson said. “We got stagnant and have to do a better job of getting to the open spots if we want to win games.”

While the offensive woes certainly need to be remedied if the team has any hope of making the NCAA Tournament, the more-direct impact of the loss was that it turned the road trip to Indiana into a huge game.

It won’t hurt that the Hoosiers might be without Bracey Wright, their leading scorer. Wright injured his ankle in a Feb. 2 win over Penn State and didn’t play in a loss to Illinois on Saturday.

With a game at No. 12 Michigan State on Wednesday, a likely tally in the loss column, a loss to Indiana on Saturday would force Minnesota into winning its last four games to reach the 20-win (10 in the Big Ten) plateau many believe it needs to in order to receive an at-large bid.

So gagging on the bread might just kill the Gophers’ hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.

“We couldn’t handle success and concentrate through it,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “How will we react to losing a game that we needed to win? We have two games on the road now to figure that out.”