Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-5, 3-4 Big Ten) Streak:
Lost 4 Last Game:
Lost to Wisconsin 45-44
Andre Hollins (leads teams with 14.2 points and 3.5 assists per game)
Austin Hollins (ranks 14th in Big Ten with 1.3 steals per game)
Joe Coleman (scoring 10.2 ppg, 10th in Big Ten with 1.5 spg)
Rodney Williams Jr. (second-leading scorer at 11.6 ppg)
Trevor Mbakwe (leads Big Ten with 8.7 rpg, second with 1.8 blocks per game)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (11-10, 2-6 Big Ten) Streak:
Won 1 Last Game:
Defeated Northwestern 64-49
Dylan Talley (has 20 points and 8 rebounds vs. Northwestern)
Ray Gallegos (ranks fifth in Big Ten with 2.3 3-pointers per game)
Shavon Shields (scoring just 4.0 ppg in last two games)
David Rivers (averaging 7.7 ppg on 56% shooting last 11 games)
Brandon Ubel (had 4th double-double of season versus Northwestern)
Battle for boards
It's no secret what Minnesota's formula for success has been all season, and that's completely dominating opponents more often than not in the rebounding department. The Golden Gophers come into tonight's game ranked fifth nationally and second in the Big Ten with a 9.2 rebounding margin on the season, holding a 39.9 to 30.7 advantage on the glass over their opponents. More impressively, UM leads the conference with 15.8 offensive boards per game and a nation-leading 46.9 offensive rebounding percentage as a team. Considering the struggles Nebraska has had on the defensive boards at times this season, it will have to find a way to limit the number of second-chance opportunities and force Minnesota to try and win with jump shots.
Protect the ball 2
Just like he did during his glory days at Kentucky, Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith's team thrives off creating opportunities with a relentless full-court pressure defense. That is definitely reflected with the Gophers this year, as they lead the Big Ten with 9.1 steals per game and have three players ranked in the league's top 15 in steals. Nebraska has been pretty good about keeping its turnovers down this season, but going on the road against an aggressive team like Minnesota, ball security will be as important as ever tonight. Senior Dylan Talley, who has taken over the bulk of the point guard duties the past couple weeks, will be in for one of his biggest tests yet.
Keep them struggling
Two weeks ago, Minnesota was 15-1 and ranked No. 9 in the country. Since then, though, the Gophers have lost their past four games and are coming off their two lowest-scoring outputs of the season in losses at Northwestern (48) and Wisconsin (44). At 2-6 in league play, Nebraska can't exactly take anything for granted at this point, but the Huskers need to do their best to keep Minnesota from regaining any confidence and snapping out of their recent funk tonight. Strong defense and efficient shooting will go a long way in keeping the Gophers from getting out and running, which is exactly what happened to NU in two Minnesota wins last season.
"Coach Smith, I admire and respect and think he does an outstanding job. He's a great guy in the industry, and it's always fun going against his teams."
Smith on his impressions of the Huskers this season:
"I've coached against Tim Miles now for a few years, and his teams always come ready. In Talley, they have a player who's making good decisions at point guard and doing a very good job. With Ray Gallegos and Ubel, they have a very solid team, and I've been impressed."