Men’s basketball players able to reunite with friends

Adam Fink

Sunday’s game against Illinois had special meaning for two Minnesota men’s basketball team members.

Aaron Robinson and Stan Gaines, both Illinois natives, got a chance to play against some of their childhood buddies and former teammates.

While Illinois won, Gaines said it is always good to see some of his friends.

“I grew up with (Illini point guard) Dee (Brown),” the Chicago native said. “I know quite a few of those guys over there.”

Brown notched 18 points in the Illini’s 79-69 win over Minnesota (8-13, 0-9 Big Ten).

Robinson, a Rockford, Ill., native, played AAU ball with a handful of the Illini players while at Guilford High School.

Gaines and Robinson started against Illinois. Gaines finished with 12 points while Robinson added 10.

Purdue missing Lowe

Like Minnesota, Purdue is discovering it is tough to win in the Big Ten when two players unexpectedly leave the rotation.

The Gophers lost guard Moe Hargrow in late January when the junior decided to transfer, while highly recruited Wesley Washington never gained admittance to the school.

After starting the Big Ten season with a 4-1 record, Purdue is 1-3 since second semester began.

The Boilermakers lost their leading scorer (14.1 points per game) and Big Ten’s defensive player of the year Kenneth Lowe after he sprained his left elbow against Indiana on Jan. 27.

“(Lowe’s) a guy they feed off of, especially on defense,” Purdue coach Gene Keady said last week. “His enthusiasm rubs off on other people; they kind of rely on him as a big brother and lean on him for leadership.”

Purdue has also been without the services of Chris Booker, a 6-foot-10-inch forward who averaged 9.4 points in 10 games. The senior was ruled academically ineligible for second semester.

Lowe missed three consecutive games, but Purdue is expected to have him back for Wednesday’s game against Northwestern.

Wildcats surprising

Northwestern, historically a conference lightweight, has been impressive this season.

The Wildcats are 4-5 in conference play after earning only three Big Ten wins last season.

This includes a convincing 69-51 win over No. 11 Wisconsin on Saturday in Evanston, Ill.

“Last year we were more of an easy mark for most teams,” Northwestern coach Bill Carmody said. “We are hanging in there and pretty much in the middle pack like everyone, so we will see where that goes.”