Consecutive wins have men’s hoops anxious for Hoosiers

by Brian Hall

Following Minnesota’s 24-point drubbing of Penn State on Wednesday night, the Gophers sounded like a broken record when talking about the impending arrival of Indiana to Williams Arena.

“Bring it on. We’re ready for them,” they said.

From Rick Rickert to Michael Bauer to even coach Dan Monson, each was ready for the opportunity awaiting them Saturday when Minnesota (12-7, 5-3 Big Ten) hosts the Hoosiers (14-6, 7-1).

But this new-found swagger is much more than optimism, it’s confidence, almost borderline cockiness.

“I don’t think there is a problem with this team about being cocky, but we are confident,” senior Dusty Rychart said. “You can’t go out there and be arrogant and think you are going to win.

“Playing against Indiana you know you are going to be up against a good team. We are confident we can beat them, but we aren’t cocky, it’s not going to be a given win.”

Since the team suffered back-to-back road losses on Jan. 12 and 19, the Gophers have played their best basketball of the season during which they defeated Ohio State and the Lions by a combined total of 42 points.

One spark has come from the return to Williams Arena.

“When we are on the road for three games in a row there is no better feeling than being at home,” Rychart said. “It’s like when you’re on the road traveling, you can’t wait to get home to your own bed. Williams Arena is our bed and we play our best games here.”

It will take one of Minnesota’s best efforts to tackle the Hoosiers on Saturday.

Monson said Indiana is playing the best basketball in the conference right now and features “the league’s best player”, Jared Jeffries.

But, the Gophers might be getting Indiana at the right time.

The Hoosiers come to town with only one day’s rest after beating Purdue on Thursday.

Ohio State also arrived last Saturday with one day’s rest and suffered its first Big Ten defeat to Minnesota.

In Big Ten games the Gophers and Indiana rank first and third in the conference in scoring. But, the big difference between the two teams is defense.

The Hoosiers are first in scoring defense during the Big Ten season while Minnesota is ninth.

“The key to the game is how well we can contain them,” Monson said. “We still gave up 70 points last night. We are still not consistent enough defensively to beat teams on a consistent basis.”

Two weeks ago the talk was about rebounding from the two losses. Now the talk surrounds the possibility of a conference title.

Minnesota sits at third, two games behind Indiana and Big Ten leading Ohio State.

“We talk about it in the locker room,” Rychart said. “If you don’t do that, then there has to be something wrong. I have never been in this situation before. It’s a nice feeling to have in the locker room.”

Added Bauer: “We have gained confidence over the past couple of games. We’re ready for anything.”

Bring on the Hoosiers.

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