Getting Inside: UM Basketball 1/11

As they tussled with Ohio State on Jan. 9, the Gophers got desperate as the Buckeyes built up a lead. Then, they started to play the style of basketball that they like most. They used fullcourt pressure to create transition opportunities.

GETTING INSIDE

Tubby Smith's known for that style of basketball but hasn't used it outside of desperation situations lately.

"When you're down, you press," he said after the game.

But his players believe the same strategy that helped them cut an 18-point deficit to three points by the final buzzer can assist them in upcoming Big Ten games.

The Gophers face Purdue Jan. 13.

"I think this team just really needs to get out and run," senior Al Nolen said. "We have a really athletic team. ... I think we're a better team when we get to running and halfcourt should be our secondary thing."

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Gophers need more three-point shooters. But where will they find them? They're the worst three-point shooting team in the Big Ten. And sharpshooter Blake Hoffarber has made nine of their 14 threes in Big Ten play. Devoe Joseph, who left the team last week, hit 38.1 percent of his three-point attempts.

--Trevor Mbakwe continues to impress. His 16 points and 12 rebounds at Ohio State amounted to his 10th double-double of the season. That's the fourth-best mark in the nation.

--The Gophers are so desperate for big men that they recently utilized Dominique Dawson, a sophomore walk-on who redshirted last year and played in one other game this season. Tubby Smith said he thought about using Elliott Eliason, who most expect to redshirt this season, after the team lost freshman center Mo Walker to a season-ending injury last month.

BY THE NUMBERS: 14 -- The number of three-pointers that the Gophers have made in four Big Ten games, the lowest tally in the league.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Just bad coaching. I'm a terrible coach." -- Coach Tubby Smith said, sarcastically, when asked about his defensive switches in a loss at Ohio State Jan. 9.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Purdue, Jan. 13

KEY MATCHUPS: The last time Purdue faced the Gophers, they were embarrassed in a 69-42 whipping in the Big Ten tourney. JaJuan Johnson, however, scored 17 points. The wiry post player will have to contend with Trevor Mbakwe, who's leading the Big Ten in rebounding. Under Tubby Smith, the Gophers haven't had a player with Mbakwe's size (6-8, 250 pounds).

--vs. Iowa, Jan. 16

KEY MATCHUPS: Matt Gatens has excelled for the Hawkeyes, playing their first season under Fran McCaffery. He's a versatile scorer who's made 34 percent of his three-point shots. But Blake Hoffarber, who's made 40 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc this season, is having the best season of his career.

FUTURES MARKET: With Devoe Joseph transferring, the Gophers have another scholarship open. And they might be going big. Walter Pitchford, a 6-8 forward out of East Lansing, Mich., is on the Gophers radar. He's a very athletic player who could contribute immediately.

PLAYER NOTES:

--Former junior G Devoe Joseph left the program last week without a word. His mother, however, said her son needed a change of scenery. Connie Joseph also said that her son had been considering a move all season.

--Sophomore G/F Rodney Williams is beginning to showcase his potential. Deemed an NBA prospect before the season started, the 6-7 wing has been inconsistent all year. But he's 10 for 17 in the team's last two games. And he's playing tight defense.

--Senior G Al Nolen is leading the Gophers on and off the floor. In the team's last two games entering the week, he recorded 25 points, six steals, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.


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