The top two teams in the Big Ten Conference, and two of the best in the country square off on Saturday, as No. 8 Minnesota comes calling on No. 5 Indiana.
Minnesota has been nearly perfect this season, logging a 15-1 mark and winning all three of its Big Ten bouts to this point. The Golden Gophers are in the midst of an 11-game winning streak, which is their longest since reeling off 12 straight during the 2008-09 campaign. Minnesota's most recent triumph was one of its most impressive as it took down No. 12 Illinois on the road this past Wednesday, 84-67. This game marks the second of three straight UM will play against a ranked opponent, as up next is a home game against No. 2 Michigan on Jan. 17.
Indiana spent much of the early season as the No. 1 team in the land, but an 88-86 overtime loss to Butler dropped them from that lofty spot. Since that time, the Hoosiers have logged five straight victories, the most recent of which being a 74-51 decision at Penn State last Monday. IU is a perfect 10-0 at home this season.
Indiana owns a 94-66 lead in the all-time series with Minnesota, and the Hoosiers won the last meeting, 69-50, in Minneapolis on Feb. 26, 2012.
This is the first matchup of top-10 teams at Assembly Hall in Bloomington since Feb. 19, 2000 when No. 10 Indiana played host to No. 7 Ohio State.
Joe Coleman scored 29 points and Andre Hollins tacked on 22, helping Minnesota run past Illinois earlier in the week. Trevor Mbakwe posted a double-double consisting of 19 points and 11 rebounds, as the Golden Gophers shot 52.9 percent from the field, knocked down nine 3-pointers, and outscored the Illini on the break, 14-0. Illinois was held to 35.4 percent field goal efficiency, and the Illini were brutal from long range (3-of-24). Andre Hollins (13.7 ppg, 3.7 apg), Rodney Williams (12.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 22 blocks), Austin Hollins (10.8 ppg) and Coleman (9.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg) are all averaging double-digits on the season, and Mbakwe (9.3 ppg, 7.9 rpg) could certainly join them at some point. The team as a whole is generating 76.0 ppg while yielding just 59.7 ppg, and it is shooting a collective 47.3 percent from the floor while the opposition checks in at 37.9 percent. An +11.4 rebounding advantage has been huge for the Gophers, as is the fact that foes are guilty of more than 15 turnovers per outing.
As expected, Indiana dominated its recent outing at Penn State, shooting 52.4 percent from the floor, draining 8-of-16 3-point attempts along the way, while holding the Nittany Lions to 31.7 percent field goal efficiency, which included a 27.8 percent showing from beyond the arc. A total of four players scored in double figures for the Hoosiers, led by Christian Watford with 16 points. Watford also grabbed eight of the team's 33 rebounds. IU scored 22 points at the foul line compared to just eight for PSU. Indiana ranks among the national leaders both in scoring offense (87.0 ppg) and scoring defense (59.1), with the team hitting better than 51 percent of its total shots while at the same time limiting the opposition to a mere 35.8 percent. The long- range bomb has served the team well, as 41.9 percent of its 3-point tries find the bottom of the net. Cody Zeller, one of the top candidates for conference and national player of year honors, leads the Hoosiers with 16.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, while four others average double digits in scoring as well.