The Gophers' last game against Cornell was a big, early season test. Minnesota only won by a score of 71-66 due to poor free throw shooting by the Maroon and Gold and 42% shooting from behind the arc for Cornell. The Gophers will yet again look to their big men to score the basketball and get to the foul line. In order to win, the bigs will need to shoot better percentage from line. If the Gophers' forwards begin to struggle, look for strong guard play by Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffarber and even Chip Armelin off the bench. Minnesota's strength is their size and athleticism down low but may need to look to other players to score if their big men are not putting up big numbers.
With Phil Martelli as the Hawks' head coach, St. Joes will come into the game prepared. The team will know that they need to shut down the Gophers' front court and that they need to be able to shoot the ball from deep. Unfortunately for the Hawks, they are only shooting 27.8% from three on the season. With the good interior defense of Minnesota, the Hawks will need to rely on the shooting of players like Carl Jones who is averaging 17.5 points per game and is shooting over 35% from deep. Look for Jones to let the ball fly to try and keep the Hawks in the game.
Quote to Note: Tubby Smith on what can be done to improve the Gophers' poor free throw shooting: "When a guy like Trevor [Mbakwe] gets to the line 20 times, I don't think I have had a guy get to the line that many times. He made them down the stretch. We usually shoot our free throws better. Ralph [Sampson III] has been making his free throws. When people start missing it becomes contagious. We had some guys make their shots. If Mbakwe makes four more of those, it's a whole different story. We will see what we have to do to improve in that area. Obviously we have to spend more times on free-throws."
Season to Date: St. Joes is off to a decent start this year, going 3-5 thus far. The Hawks have a very impressive win against Rutgers by a score of 76-70 to win the Philly Hoop Group Classic title. One of St. Joe's losses came against Big Ten opponent Penn State by a score of 66-57.
Coaching Preview: Phil Martelli is currently in his 16th season as the Hawks' head coach. In 15 seasons he has racked up an impressive record of 289-187. During his tenure he has won four Atlantic 10 titles and was the 2004 National Coach of the Year. Martelli coached current NBA players Delonte West and Jameer Nelson. A true coaching icon, Martelli's team will surely be prepared when the faceoff against the Gophers on Wednesday.
Random Fact: The Gophers are an impressive 48-4 when scoring 70 or more points. St. Joes is giving up an average 69.6 points per game which means Minnesota should have a good chance at scoring 70 points and getting the win.
Series History: The Gophers and Hawks have met three times previously with Minnesota winning two of the meetings. Last year at Williams Arena, Minnesota dominated St. Joes by a score of 97—74.