Tired men’s basketball team limps into fifth game in 10 days

Anthony Maggio

It’s been a long week for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.

The Gophers are on the verge of playing their fifth game in 10 days Friday night against Fairleigh Dickinson.

“We’re tired,” forward Michael Bauer said. “But that’s college basketball.”

Minnesota had its first day off on Wednesday since Dec. 1.

The day off undoubtedly helped the team rest their weary bodies, but Gophers coach Dan Monson is more anxious about his team’s mental shape after such a tumultuous stretch.

“I’m most concerned with them being mentally rested,” Monson said. “Sometimes the week before finals is more difficult than the week of finals. They don’t get much sleep. That kind of worn out concerns me more than playing as many games as we have.”

Minnesota (5-1) is looking to go 4-1 over the difficult span with a win over the Knights.

Fairleigh Dickinson finished last season with a disappointing 4-25 record, and were a preseason pick to finish 11th of the 12 teams in the Northeast conference.

But the Knights have been the surprise team in their division, winning as many games so far as they did all of last season. They currently sit in the No. 2 spot in the conference.

Monson isn’t taking Fairleigh Dickinson lightly, however he knows if the Gophers are on their game, there shouldn’t be any major problems.

“They’re dangerous in that they shoot the ball from four, sometimes five positions,” Monson said. “They spread it out. But if we clamp on them like we should be able to, than we just need to play well.”

Minnesota will once again play a smaller team on Friday, but so far this season, the Gophers have not taken advantage of their height on the glass.

In six games this year, Minnesota has held the rebounding advantage only once – against Bethune-Cookman last Friday. The Gophers out-rebounded the Wildcats 45-39.

But Minnesota feels it is making strides toward being a stronger rebounding team.

“We’re getting better at rebounding,” Bauer said. “It’s definitely not this team’s strongpoint. But rebounding is something we’re improving on and something we’re going to look to improve on all year.”

Minnesota has kept the rebounding battle close, and as a result, has not been killed by second chance points. In fact, the Gophers and their opponents are both averaging 13.5 second chance points per game.

Still, guard Ben Johnson knows his squad must pick things up on the glass before conference play starts in less than a month.

“We can win without (rebounding),” Johnson said “But we won’t be able to win the Big Ten title or anything like that. Rebounding is always key, but especially in conference play.”

Minnesota and Fairleigh Dickinson tip off at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Williams Arena.

Anthony Maggio covers men’s basketball and welcomes comments at [email protected]