Gophers grasping ‘mindset’ as Central Michigan visits

Bob Wothe

Mindset: it’s on the wrist of every Minnesota men’s basketball player.

Each letter on the maroon rubber band (similar to the popular “Live Strong” bands) has its own meaning – “M,” for Minnesota; “I,” for indivisible; “N,” for not about me; “D,” for discipline; “S,” for serve the program; “E,” for excellence; and, finally, “T,” for thankfulness.

The importance of the band does not lie in each letter, though; the players have taken the mindset to heart.

“Each letter stands for something, but ultimately we want to be tough defensively,” freshman Spencer Tollackson said. “We just want to work hard, play hard and have fun.”

And that attitude seems to be paying dividends.

In Minnesota’s 57-48 win over Nebraska on Wednesday, the team certainly didn’t satisfy the “excellence” objective, but it did stick together well enough to chip away at a deficit and pull off an upset road win.

The scrappy attitude was a big factor, and it has helped the Minnesota defense hold its last two opponents – Nebraska and Holy Cross – to a combined 34.7 percent shooting.

Minnesota (4-3) hopes to carry the momentum from that win into Saturday’s game against Central Michigan (4-2) at noon at Williams Arena. The game is the first of an eight-game homestand.

“I liked how we developed our identity,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “We’ve said all along that we have to make games ugly and then win the ugly games – and we did it (Wednesday) night.”

Junior Vincent Grier agreed.

“We made mistakes, but we know we can’t worry about them,” Grier said. “We just try to make something great out of the mistakes.”

While the Gophers have made a strong case that perhaps defense should take over the “D” spot on those bands, no one expected that the Gophers would be campaigning to insert an “R” for rebounding.

Minnesota has struggled on the glass against other major conference opponents, being outrebounded by Alabama and Oklahoma in the Great Alaska Shootout.

It seemed as if it would be more of the same against Nebraska early Wednesday, as Minnesota was down 13-4 in rebounding early.

But the mindset took over. The Gophers fought hard for every rebound thereafter, winning the battle on the boards 38-29 by the end of the game.

They hope to continue their strong rebounding, and defense Saturday against Central Michigan.

Monson said the team’s mindset will not allow it to look past the Chippewas.

“This team understands that it can’t win the pretty games,” Monson said. “They understand that nobody can do it on their own offensively or defensively, so they work together.”