Four nights ago the Gophers were putting up a fight against sixth-ranked Michigan State and appeared to be en route to a huge upset, but the hosts became rattled and lost their composure, eventually dropping the 66-61 decision to the Spartans. The loss was the fifth in the last six games for the team, which also moved the Gophers to a mere 5-10 in league play.
As for the Hoosiers, they caught a break in the schedule on Wednesday night and used the opportunity to come away with a 75-56 win over NC Central at home. The victory helped to slightly soften the blow of losing to Iowa last weekend, the only setback in the last five games for Indiana, the team now showing a record of 8-7 in conference play.
According to records supplied by the Golden Gophers, Indiana leads the all- time series by a count of 93-66, but it was Minnesota that won the last meeting six weeks ago with a 77-74 decision on the road. The last game played in Minneapolis also went in favor of the hosts as the Gophers registered a 67-63 triumph.
Indiana scored the first points of the game against NC Central earlier this week and never looked back, shooting 51.0 percent from the field which allowed 16 different players to take the floor for the hosts. Cody Zeller tallied 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds, while fellow starters Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey logged 16 and 12 points, respectively. Derek Elston played just 17 minutes off the bench, but that was enough time for him to contribute another 10 points to the cause. A 64.5 percent shooter from the floor on the season, Zeller is not just the leading scorer for the Hoosiers with 15.7 ppg, he is also tops on the unit with better than six and a half rebounds per game. Christian Watford (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Oladipo (11.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) are also key figures in the paint for Indiana, as the team owns an average scoring margin of 11.9 ppg.
Austin Hollins played 37 minutes for the Gophers last Wednesday and used his time to generate a team-high 17 points, hitting 4-of-6 shots behind the three- point line, but it wasn't enough as the hosts suffered the five-point loss to Michigan State. Rodney Williams and Julian Welch both delivered 10 points for Minnesota, the latter handing out eight of the team's 13 assists, but he was also guilty of four of the squad's 15 turnovers. Considering the Gophers have been playing the majority of the season without their top player in Trevor Mbakwe, who went out with an injury after appearing in just seven games, the squad hasn't done that badly. Williams and Welch are the two active double- digit scorers for the group with 11.0 and 10.5 ppg, respectively, and when Ralph Sampson III is plugged in he too can be a force in the middle for Minnesota.