The #9/#13 Minnesota Golden Gophers take on the Northwestern Wildcats in a Sunday night conference clash. (Photo: Brian Spurlock, US Presswire)
Freshman center Alex Olah has shown plenty of promise (Photo: Nam Y. Huh / AP)
Game Preview: Northwestern at #9/#13 Minnesota | January 6, 2013 | TV: BTN
Minnesota (13-1, 1-0) will host Northwestern (9-5, 0-1) Sunday at 6pm CT. The Gophers then hit the road for games at Illinois and Indiana before returning home for a tough one against No. 2 Michigan on Thursday, January 17.
On Monday, Minnesota took care of Michigan State by a final score of 76-63. Trailing by 5 points with less than 9 minutes to play, Tubby Smith put all of his starters back in and they responded by scoring 22 of the game’s last 26 points.
Andre Hollins led the Gophers with 22 points and Trevor Mbakwe posted an 11-point, 12-rebound double double. Senior forward Rodney Williams added 15 points and should reach 1,000 for his career against Northwestern as he is just 4 points shy of that mark.
Northwestern was destroyed at home 94-66 by Michigan’s unrelenting offensive attack. The Wolverines made 13 of 22 3-point attempts and shot for an effective field goal percentage of 71.0%.
This summer there was some hope for the Wildcats when looking ahead to 2012-13. Since then, guard JerShon Cobb was suspended for the season, star wing Drew Crawford opted for season-ending shoulder surgery and more recently, leading scorer Reggie Hearn has been missing time with an ankle sprain.
After the loss to Michigan, head coach Bill Carmody indicated he may have his team slow things down, saying, “The last four or five years we’ve been going up and down the court scoring a lot, and we shot the ball quickly because we had the team to do that. Right now I don’t know if that’s the case, so we might have to just change things a little bit.”
Minnesota should have no problem handling the Wildcats regardless of what adjustments Carmody makes. Northwestern is similar to past years in many respects: they don’t turn it over a lot, they do favor the 3-pointer shot and their defense isn’t very good.
With some additional size inside, Northwestern is a little bit better on the defensive boards than in years past, but they’ll need to be great on Sunday if they want to limit the Gophers’ second chances.
Reggie Hearn is questionable for Sunday’s game and hasn’t practiced in a couple of weeks. Some of the other injuries of note for the Wildcats include the following:
· TCU transfer Nikola Cerina suffered a bad ankle sprain in November. He returned to the court for several minutes against Michigan and at 6’9”, 245, could provide some limited help against the Gophers.
· Benilde-St. Margaret’s product Sanjay Lumpkin battled through mononucleosis this fall, but just as he was getting into the swing of things the freshman suffered a serious wrist injury and won’t be on the floor for this one.
· Alex Marcotullio missed time with concussion symptoms and other ailments last year, but has been playing this season. However, he is dealing with back spasms.
Senior Reggie Hearn (14.5p, 5.5r, 42.9% 3FG) is leading the way for Northwestern, but now dealing with the bad ankle.
Dave Sobolewski (11.0p, 2.4r, 4.4a, 2.5:1 A:TO ratio, 46.3% 3FG) isn’t the Big Ten’s best sophomore point guard, but he’s been very good from day one for the Wildcats. He’s a pass-first guy, but capable of putting points up. He’ll need to knock down some shots if the ‘Cats are going to compete.
Alex Marcotullio (4.0p, 2.4r, 28.6% 3FG) will probably get his third start of the year against the Gophers. The numbers don’t show it, but he’s a veteran guard capable of an impressive double-figure scoring performance in this game.
Other Players to Watch:
· Louisville graduate transfer Jared Swopshire (9.0p, 5.9r) is a 6’8” senior who helps on defense and the boards. Not a great offensive player, but Swopshire can step back behind the 3-point stripe.
· Tre Demps (5.9p, 36.7% 3FG) is a second-year freshman who had shoulder surgery a year ago. He’s one to watch from long range. The Gophers had offered the Texas guard in high school.
· Starting center Alex Olah (7.4p, 4.4r) should become a familiar name to Big ten fans. The 7-foot center carries 275 pounds and has been solid for Northwestern as a true freshman. Olah already has 5 games of 4 or more assists.
· Another freshman showing promise is 6’7” Kale Abrahamson (4.9p, 35.0% 3FG). He’s being called on to do more because of the team’s injuries and is a legitimate 3-point threat for Northwestern.
TOUGH SCHEDULE FOR THE ‘CATS
Five of Northwestern’s first seven conference games are against teams currently in the top 11 of the Associated Press top 25 poll.
NORTHWESTERN FACILITIES UPDATE
Less than four months ago Northwestern announced that their Board of Trustees approved plans to build a major complex for athletic and recreational activities as well as a new parking structure.
According to the school, the project will include:
$220 million though? Maybe that’s not such a big amount for Northwestern. Last week the school announced that a series of gifts had put them over $55 million already.
Thanks to the incredible response from donors, the school says a design competition for the facilities is already underway and will conclude in the summer of 2013. The winning design will be selected from the submissions by a group of architectural firms with substantial accomplishments in designing collegiate sports and recreational facilities.
In the fall of 2010 Northwestern hired Populous to assist in a master plan study for its athletics and recreational facilities. Populous is the same international design practice specializing in sports architecture that Minnesota recently engaged for a similar project. The plans for the $220 million project were unveiled in conjunction with the full results of the master plan.
Tag(s): Gopher Basketball