Getting Inside: UM Basketball 1/28

When Purdue played the Gophers in Minnesota earlier this month, Boilermakers guard E'Twaun Moore probably wished he'd stayed in West Lafayette, Ind. The senior went 2-for-14 in a 70-67 loss to the Gophers on Jan. 13. In that matchup, Al Nolen frustrated him. The Big Ten steals leader harassed him for 40 minutes in one of the worst performances of Moore's career.

But Nolen will not be available when the Gophers travel to play Purdue on Jan. 29. He's out indefinitely with a broken foot. The Gophers utilized their size to beat Northwestern on Jan. 26, but they'll miss Nolen's defensive prowess against Moore and the Boilermakers.

Nolen's greatest asset was his ability to lock up talented playmakers like Moore. The Gophers will probably continue to play a lot of 2-3 zone with Nolen sidelined. But if the Boilermakers disrupt that scheme, who will step up and play the man-to-man defense necessary to beat a good team on the road?

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: As a star at a Minnesota prep powerhouse, Blake Hoffarber played point guard before switching to the wing. The sharpshooter will assume that role again with the Gophers. With Al Nolen unavailable, Hoffarber is expected to play point guard for the duration of the season. In his first stint Jan. 26, he scored a game-high 20 points, but his four turnovers may be cause for concern. He'll face more pressure as the Gophers face tougher opponents in the future.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The Gophers used three post players in their starting lineup against Northwestern. Trevor Mbakwe (18 points, 14 rebounds), Ralph Sampson III (14 points) and Colton Iverson (15 points) helped the Gophers outscore Northwestern 40-18 in the paint during Minnesota's 81-70 victory in Minneapolis on Jan. 26. It was their first game since the team learned that Al Nolen suffered a broken foot in the win over Michigan on Jan. 22. Northwestern came back from a 29-16 deficit in the first half to take a 34-33 halftime lead, but Iverson scored his team's first seven points as the Gophers went on a 15-5 run to start the second half.

--Before Al Nolen suffered an ankle injury on Jan. 22 against Michigan, he was on a roll. He'd averaged 12.7 points, recorded 22 boards and finished with 12 steals over the squad's last four games.

--Guard Blake Hoffarber proved that he could help the Gophers out with point guard duties if necessary. He scored 12 points and led the team with six assists against Michigan on Jan. 22. He also finished the game without any turnovers.

--Trevor Mbakwe is not expected to face jail time after allegedly violating a harassment restraining order earlier this month. He was arrested two weeks ago and has not started since the Gophers faced Ohio State Jan. 9. The junior forward, who leads the Big Ten in rebounding as of Jan. 22, is scheduled to make his next court appearance Feb. 7. His lawyer said the hope is the case will be resolved at that time.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Straight road losses at Purdue. The Gophers travel to play the Boilermakers, whom they defeated at home earlier this month, Jan. 29.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "When he said that he turned his ankle, I was a little less concerned. It's the same foot (that cost Nolen five games earlier this season), but it wasn't really the part where the stress fracture (was)." -- Coach Tubby Smith on Nolen's injury, immediately after the game.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAME:

--at Purdue, Jan. 29

KEY MATCHUPS: They tried everything to stop JaJuan Johnson. But the Gophers couldn't do it in their first matchup. Still, they found a way to beat the Boilermakers, despite Johnson's 29 points. E'Twaun Moore, however, was 2 for 14 in that game.

FUTURES MARKET: Last year, Damian Johnson was one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. He was top three in steals and blocks in the Big Ten. Tubby Smith said he believes sophomore Rodney Williams can play that role this year for the Gophers. Williams, an athletic wing who is considered an NBA prospect by many, has helped the Gophers lock up talented players like Ohio State's Jon Diebler and Purdue's E'Twaun Moore in recent weeks. His jumping ability makes him a tremendous help-side shot-blocker. He's beginning to show evidence that he can be a force on that end of the floor for Smith's squad.

PLAYER NOTES

--Junior F Trevor Mbakwe recorded his 12th double-double of the season on Jan. 26. He could become the first Gophers player to lead the Big Ten in rebounding since Kris Humphries, who plays for the New Jersey Nets, achieved the feat in 2003. The only thing that threatens to disrupt his plight is a lingering court case. Mbakwe is scheduled to go to court Feb. 7 after being arrested earlier this month for allegedly violating a harassment restraining order, but his lawyer believes the case will be resolved without jail time.

--Coach Tubby Smith said senior G Al Nolen underwent successful surgery on the morning of Jan. 26. Doctors inserted a pin Nolen's right foot, which he broke Jan. 22 in Minnesota's win at Michigan.


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