Gophers look to avenge loss to Wolverines

C.J. Spang

For Minnesotaís menís basketball team, todayís game at Michigan isnít just a chance to get another Big Ten win; itís a chance to get revenge.

The last time the teams met, the Wolverines waxed the Gophers 71-55 as senior guard Daniel Horton torched Minnesotaís defense for 32 points Jan. 21 at Williams Arena.

Todayís 6 p.m. game in Ann Arbor, Mich., will feature two different teams, however.

This time around, Minnesota is coming in on a hot streak, winning two straight and three of its past four, while Michigan is on a downswing, losing three straight by a combined margin of 51 points.

ìItís always nice to be able to hurt a team when theyíre down,” senior forward Jíson Stamper said. ìAlso, the fact that they beat us on our home court last time, thatís huge in this. I want this game bad.”

Not only are the Gophers winning, but theyíve found what theyíve been missing this season ó confidence.

ìTo me you can measure confidence by shooting,” coach Dan Monson said. ìWhen they canít step to the free-throw line, and relax and shoot a ball from 15 feet like theyíve been doing since the eighth grade, they donít look very confident.”

But during the past two games, Minnesota shot 82.5 percent from the charity stripe, well above its season average of 65 percent.

ìTo me that shows that theyíre relaxing and finding a role, finding an identity,” Monson said, ìand playing with more playing confidence.”

Just how important is that confidence to the players?

ìIf youíre a confident player on the court, it makes you unconscious,” senior guard Maurice Hargrow said. ìEverything you do is second nature Ö you feel like everything you do is going to pinpoint.”

Not only does it affect players individually, but also the team as a whole.

ìWhen you have the confidence to know that you can beat anybody in this league, thatís extremely important,” Stamper said. ìIt keeps you hungry and you never give up Ö thatís what the elite teams have.”

Not only does confidence translate to success on the court, but it also affects the atmosphere in the locker room.

While no one said the team lost hope during their 0-6 start in the Big Ten, the atmosphere is distinctly different now that the Gophers are winning.

ìNow thereís just another level of energy,” Hargrow said. ìYou can just feel the change from winning a couple ballgames. Itís like we hit the jackpot.”

There is one danger that comes with beating two teams in the top 15 in the country ó overconfidence.

ìNo way,” Stamper said. ìWe always have to stay hungry and humble. Any team can be beat on any given night and we understand that.”