Michigan up next for Minnesota

by Michael Rand

Tim Klobuchar

The task of going into the Michigan Wolverines’ home arena in the midst of a five-game losing streak is daunting enough for the Gophers, what with Michigan’s intimidating front line led by 300-pounder Robert “Tractor” Traylor.
Then factor in that the Wolverines will most likely be bent on revenge, and Minnesota’s job becomes that much tougher. The Gophers cut down the nets at Crisler Arena after their 55-54 win clinched the Big Ten championship last year.
But, said Gophers senior Sam Jacobson, teams desiring payback for last season’s success is nothing new this year, which might be another reason for Minnesota’s struggles.
“Just about every game there’s a revenge factor,” he said. “We only had two Big Ten losses last year, so they all get pumped up to play us.”
The Gophers don’t match up inside with the Wolverines, who also have 6-9 forwards Maceo Baston and Jerod Ward to go along with the 6-8 Traylor. Those three, along with shooting guard Louis Bullock, all average double figures in points. Minnesota coach Clem Haskins was asked who would take the pressure off the Gophers’ perimeter players.
“We don’t have anyone that can do that right now,” he said. “Kyle (Sanden) is the closest thing to it. There’s no substitute for experience. With Miles (Tarver), we can throw it inside, but we don’t have a threat that we need inside. So we’re going to have to throw it inside, then kick it to someone else.”
No sub for U
In the past, Haskins has been criticized by fans and members of the media for spreading floor time among too many players.
Prior to last season’s Final Four run — when Haskins’ deep rotation was finally accepted by the Williams Arena faithful — the sight of a starter heading to the bench before the first TV timeout drew loud groans.
This season, the Gophers’ crowd seems to have increased its affection for the team’s subs — particularly walk-ons Rob Schoenrock and Jason Stanford and freshman octopus Antoine Broxsie.
But as is the case during a trip to the dentist, there was very little love for the fill-ins Sunday against Iowa. It wasn’t because the bench players made a bad impression — they just didn’t have their usual opportunity to make an impact.
Guard Kevin Clark was the only back-up who played more than 10 minutes. He and the Gophers’ five starters all played at least 26 minutes, while three other reserves — Russ Archambault, Kevin Nathaniel and Schoenrock — combined for only 19 minutes. Broxsie and Stanford did not play at all.
It was a rare departure for the Gophers, who came into the game with eight players averaging at least 12.8 minutes during Big Ten games.
“It was coach’s decision,” Tarver said. “I don’t even know what he’s doing sometimes, but there’s a method to everything.”
It’s been called a jump pass, a lob pass, an alley-oop and, by unknowing fans, an air ball. Whatever it’s name, the Hawkeyes called it two points on several occasions against the Gophers, many times during crucial moments.
The play, in which a perimeter player hoists up what looks like an errant shot but is really a pass to a post player on the opposite side of the basket, has been in Iowa’s playbook for the past couple of seasons.
But forward Ryan Bowen, who was on the receiving end of a majority of the lobs, couldn’t recall it working much better than it did Sunday.
“I don’t know why it worked so well this game, but it did,” Bowen said.
One of the early lobs didn’t work so well. Iowa point guard Dean Oliver’s attempt was picked off, and Minnesota fans spent the rest of the game chanting “air ball” every time Oliver had possession.
“They fooled us, and they fooled 14,000 fans, too,” Tarver said.