Is defense or effort to blame?

The Gophers went through another trying week in basketball, and while defense is definitely a problem, some players are also blaming effort.

Another week, another two losses for the Gophers.

Minnesota is still looking for its first Big Ten win, and after dropping a 61-47 decision at Northwestern that win might be very hard to come by.

The root cause of Minnesota's last-place status in the conference standings is the team's poor defense. The Wildcats pulled away in the second half as guard Jitim Young scored 26 points in the second half and the Gophers offered little resistance.

While poor defense has been a problem for the Gophers for the past two seasons, there are other issues as well. The biggest one is a lack of confidence. With the release of guard Moe Hargrow from his scholarship, this team appears to lack the energy needed to play competitively for 40 minutes.

Sensational freshman forward Kris Humphries has noticed that several of his teammates don't have the necessary passion to win the game.

"I felt like not everyone came out wanting to win that game," Humphries said. "When it feels like not everyone is out there trying to win and have fun and be a part of something special, it's just, like, a stale feeling.

"We've got to figure out who wants to come out every night and go after it and who doesn't."

That's strong stuff — especially from a freshman — but it may very well be warranted.

It figures to get worse before it gets better with games against Wisconsin and Illinois this week.

The Gophers are 0-7 in Big Ten play for the first time since the 1932-33 team lost nine consecutive games to start league competition. Dating to last season, the Gophers have lost 12 straight Big Ten games.

— Despite losing at Northwestern Jan. 31, the Gophers have beaten the Wildcats in eight of their last 11 trips to Evanston.

— The Gophers are shooting 31.1 percent from beyond the arc — ranking them 11th in the conference.

PROBABLE LINEUP: Forward Kris Humphries, forward Stan Gaines, center Jeff Hagen, guard Ben Johnson, guard Adam Boone.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We just look like a team that's not very confident, that's lost a few games and has guys that are better players than how they're playing. We've got more mental issues than physical. Yet today, I thought we compounded our mental issues with them getting every loose ball. They out-competed us, especially in the second half." — Minnesota head coach Dan Monson on the state of his team following the 61-47 loss at Northwestern.

UPCOMING GAMES: at Wisconsin, Feb. 4; vs. Illinois, Feb. 8.

KEYS: The Gophers are struggling in the Big Ten and are also having a difficult time coming up with a decent effort. Several of head coach Dan Monson's players have noted that teammates are not trying hard for 40 minutes and that will most likely ensure disaster against the best team in the conference (Wisconsin) and one of the most athletic teams (Illinois).

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