Recent slump leaves men’s hoops looking for victory, not apathy

by Brian Hall

After Tuesday’s loss to UNC-Wilmington, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team was visibly deflated.

Out-rebounded, outplayed and out-coached by the Seahawks, the Gophers would not surprise anyone by going to Georgia on Friday and losing.

But the team understands what needs fixing and lists two keys to make a turnaround heading into the Bulldogs game – toughness and togetherness.

The disappointment has turned to determination.

“Our team knows we have to stick together to have a successful year,” sophomore forward Mike Bauer said. “A lot of the guys that screwed up took it upon themselves to fix what they did. Our team so far has not been pointing fingers over that loss.

“That was a pretty disturbing loss. Nobody had a smile afterwards. We are all trying to fix what we did wrong in that game, come together and fix it as a team.”

The Gophers (4-2) hope to take their first step to recovery against Georgia.

Minnesota and the Bulldogs have met in each of the last two seasons with the Gophers winning each affair by a total of four points.

Georgia (5-1) is in the same position as Minnesota, coming off an upset loss to in-state rival Georgia State.

The Bulldogs also look to bounce back, hoping their deficiencies do not become an every-game occurrence.

“You are not going to win all your games,” Georgia coach Jim Harrick said. “There are just times in the season where guys are injured and people catch you at the wrong time. I hope that’s what happened and we aren’t on a skid. Minnesota has beaten us two times in a row. I know how good they can be and how well coached they are, so we have our work cut out for us.”

The Bulldogs lost three of their top four scorers from last season’s NCAA team, but has exceeded expectations by winning five of their first six games, including an upset of No. 15 Georgetown.

Bauer should be excited to see Georgia. Last season he set career-highs with 21 points and 35 minutes against the Bulldogs.

Bauer epitomized the Gophers’ struggles against UNC-Wilmington, being held without a field goal for only the third time in his career.

“If we stick together, run our game plan and play basketball the way we know we can, we can beat anybody,” Bauer said. “If we try to deviate from our plan, then there is no way we can manage to run the team successfully.”

Minnesota hopes two days of diligent practice will pay off against Georgia. One thing is certain: the Gophers will be determined heading into the game.

“It is just a matter of how hard you want to work,” senior forward Dusty Rychart said. “It’s just about how much heart and desire you have not to get pushed around, and to get physical with the other teams. It is hard to do and it’s just how big your heart is and how bad you want to do it.”

Looking at the Gophers’ faces, they want it almost as bad as they need it.