Smith Doesn't Mince Words After Latest Loss

Tubby Smith clearly wasn't thrilled with his troops after an important loss at Northwestern on Feb. 18.

"I hope they felt pressure," he said of his team, after a 64-53 loss that nudged the Gophers closer to being an NIT team. "That's what the game is about, that's what the sport is all about, measuring yourself against pressure.

"The great players, they want more pressure, the good players, they want that challenge, they seek it. They embrace it. Obviously we don't."

The second loss of the week, the first to No. 6 Ohio State, left Minnesota at 17-10 overall, and at a non-attractive 5-9 in Big Ten play.

And the road doesn't get any easier, even with three of the last four games of the regular season at home. The Gophers are set to host No. 7 Michigan State and No. 18 Indiana this week, before visiting No. 15 Wisconsin and hosting unranked Nebraska to close the regular slate.

In other words, things aren't looking great, for a team that has dropped three straight and four of the last five, at the wrong time of year.

Junior guard Julian Welch, who scored a season -- high 21 (of his team's 53) points in the loss at Northwestern, was asked about his team's dwindling NCAA chances and said, "I honestly don't know. It probably got a lot worse with that loss to Northwestern. ...

"Every loss hurts, especially this one because we're on the bubble and what-not. It just hurts, that's about it."

The Gophers turned the ball over 21 times against Northwestern.

NOTES, QUOTES

Shurna makes history against Gophers

--The Gophers were in on some history at Northwestern on Feb. 18, when John Shurma became the Wildcats' all-time leading scorer during Minnesota's 64-53 loss. More important than the record, though, was Shurna scoring 12 straight points to end the first half.

--Speaking of runs, No. 6 Ohio State reeled off 20 straight in the first half to take control of what became a 78-68 win over the Gophers in Minneapolis Feb. 14.

--Minnesota settled for a split of the season series with Northwestern and lost to Ohio State in the only meeting of the regular season between the teams.

--The Gophers held a 41-20 rebounding advantage at Northwestern, yet scored only seven second-chance points.

--The 53 points scored at Northwestern marked the second-lowest point total for the Gophers this season. They tallied 52 at Michigan State Jan. 25, also in a loss.

--Coach Tubby Smith used his eighth different starting lineup in the loss at Northwestern.

--The Gophers had five players in double figures and scored 75 points in winning their home game against Northwester, then mustered just 53 points in the rematch.

BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- The number of consecutive scoreless games turned in by freshman guard Joe Coleman before he scored 12 points off the bench in the loss at Northwestern.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "They were told what the implications were. And we didn't rise to the challenge. We didn't raise up." -- Coach Tubby Smith after the loss at Northwestern.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs Michigan State, Feb. 22

--vs Indiana, Feb. 25

KEY MATCHUPS: Two home games is always a nice thing at this time of year, but THESE two home games?

The Gophers first host the No. 7 Spartans and then have to deal with the No. 18 Hoosiers.

Last month, Minnesota went to Indiana and beat the then-No. 8 Hoosiers, but lost at then-No.11 Michigan State less than two weeks later.

Note about Michigan State: Tom Izzo's teams tend to get better as the season winds down. The Spartans bring a five-game win streak into this one.

FUTURES MARKET: We have to stick with freshman guard Joe Coleman in this space.

It wasn't that long ago that Coleman was one of the rookie stories of the Big Ten. Then, bang, his scoring went in the tank.

He had 12 points off the bench in the loss at Northwestern Feb. 18, ending a run of four straight games without a single point!

For the season, Coleman entered the week averaging 5.6 points and 2.5 rebounds per game.

He was just 0-for-9 from the floor in the four scoreless games.

PLAYER NOTES

--Junior G Julian Welch had a strong week while his team lost two games in a row. He had 11 points, a career-high nine assists and five rebounds in the loss to Ohio State and then scored a season-high 21 points and was 5-for-10 from 3-point range in the game at Northwestern.

--Junior F Rodney Williams scored a career-high 21 points and just missed his third double-double of the season with nine rebounds against Ohio State. Getting close attention from the Northwestern defense, he had just nine points while grabbing seven boards against the Wildcats.

In the two games against Northwestern, Williams averaged 10 points and five rebounds. For the season, he was at 11.0 points and 5.4 rebounds per game.

--Freshman F Oto Osenieks scored 10 points off the bench against Ohio State which helped earn him his first college start. He played 21 minutes at Northwestern, with four points, five rebounds, three assists and three of the team's 21 turnovers.

--Sophomore G Austin Hollins scored 10 points against Ohio State but was then scoreless at Northwestern, going 0-for-4 from the floor.


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