Ohio State travels to the Twin Cities to take on the Minnesota Golden Gophers tomorrow night, hoping to continue their unbeaten streak. This is, of course, the second meeting between these two teams. The first saw Ohio State squeak by the Gophers by three as a last second Minnesota three pointer bounced out. We’ll focus on what has transpired with the Gophers since the Bucks last saw them, so check out the preview of the first game for more.
The Gophers have played a total of 6 games since facing off with the Buckeyes in Columbus (then ranked #2 in the country). Following their close loss to Ohio State, Minnesota picked up a win at home over Purdue by the same margin, improving their chances in the conference title race. Their subsequent wins over Iowa, Michigan and Northwestern had fans feeling good about the team as a whole.
But there was only one problem. Senior PG Al Nolen had been injured at Michigan. While playing defense late in the first half, Nolen rolled his foot badly. He was quoted as saying that it felt like he had been stabbed. Serious pain for a rolled foot – which turned out to be broken and required surgery. Nolen is not expected to be back until at least March, and hopes to have rehabbed enough to participate in the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, that means the rest of the team has to get there without him. While they are clearly talented enough to do it, lacking their Senior leader and floor general is going to make it tough. They managed to pick up a win at home against the Wildcats, but they have dropped their last two games: at Purdue (73-61) and at Indiana (60-57). The loss to Indiana is particularly tough, and many hope that it’s not a sign of things to come.
Not surprisingly, Minnesota has gone with their most talented lineup for their starting five. Surprising, however, is that four of those starters are Forwards or Centers, including Rodney Williams who has played the “2″ (Shooting Guard) for the last couple of games. Williams is not your prototypical 2-man, shooting a mere 15% (5-33) from beyond the arc this season. The shooting role will have to remain with Hoffarber, the much more prolific 40% shooter, who has also taken over point guard duties for Nolen.
|Ralph Sampson III||22||28.7||10.7||5.5||1.5||0.5||2.1||1.3||0.467||0.729||0.235|
The Gophers will provide an interesting challenge for the Buckeyes. Even while they almost caught Ohio State by surprise in Columbus, Nolen played a big part in that playing for 31 minutes and scoring 11 points – the second most for the team. This time around, the Gophers will try to do it with size, with their smallet player, Hoffarber, standing at 6-4. The others check in at 6-7, 6-8, 6-10 and 6-11. The Buckeyes will be playing through the trees on Sunday.
In the end, it will be up to Minnesota’s supporting cast to change the game in their favor. Trevor Mbakwe and Al Nolen scored 42% of the Gopher’s points in the last meeting. If someone doesn’t step up to fill Nolen’s shoes, it could spell trouble for the Gophers.
The game will be played in Williams Arena on Sunday, February 6th at 2:00 PM Eastern Time. You’ll be able to see the game on ESPN.