It's not exactly the way they wanted to enter a big stretch with games against heavyweights Purdue, Illinois and Michigan State, but it's the situation Minnesota faces after missing 12 of its first 13 shots of the second half against Northwestern.
This week it's expected a bit of separation will occur in the muddled Big Ten, where five teams have two league losses. Three of those two-loss teams are the Gophers, Boilermakers and Illini.
In order to stay within range of Michigan State, which is unbeaten in the league, Minnesota can't afford another loss. Luckily, both Purdue (Jan. 22) and Illinois (Jan. 29) come to the Barn, with a road trip to Indiana on Jan. 25 wedged in between.
If the Gophers survive unscathed, they can head to East Lansing, Mich. on Feb. 4 for an important rematch with the Spartans, who won in Minneapolis rather easily on New Year's Eve.
PLAYER ROTATION: Usual Starters — G Lawrence Westbrook, G Al Nolen, F Damian Johnson, F Ralph Sampson III, C Colton Iverson. Key Subs — G Blake Hoffarber, F Paul Carter, F Jamal Abu-Shamala, G/F Travis Busch, G Devoe Joseph, G Devron Bostick.
IN FOCUS: The Gophers face Purdue in a battle of two-loss teams within league play. Neither wants to fall three games behind Michigan State in the loss column. The Boilers are healthy again and have won three straight after dropping consecutive games to Illinois and Penn State while battling injuries.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Things like that happen. It's kind of like, ‘Why do you find your wife?' Maybe she found me. Maybe it's just karma, I guess." — Tubby Smith, to the St. Paul Pioneer Press, explaining how he goes from a high-profile job like Kentucky to a rebuilding project like Minnesota.
Minnesota 79, Penn State 59
Minnesota 78, Wisconsin 74 OT
Northwestern 74, Minnesota 65
vs. Purdue, Thursday, Jan. 22
at Indiana, Sunday, Jan. 25
vs. Illinois, Thursday, Jan. 29