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Game Preview: Gophers at Northwestern 1/23/13

01/22/2013, 1:45pm CST
By J.B. Bauer

Two-Game Losing Streak Should Come to an End

The #12/#14 Minnesota Golden Gophers (15-3, 3-2) travel to Evanston to face the Northwestern Wildcats (11-8, 2-4). Game time is 8pm CT Wednesday and the contest will be carried live on the Big Ten Network. (Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Reggie Hearn

Northwestern senior guard Reggie Hearn (#11) averaged 21 points per game last week. (Photo: Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

Game Preview: #12/#14 Minnesota (15-3, 3-2) at Northwestern (11-8, 2-4) 1/23/13

Just over two weeks ago Minnesota beat Northwestern 69-51 at Williams Arena. The Wildcats should have a better chance of pulling off an upset in Evanston, but they have been struggling at home. 

Northwestern has won only 2 of their last 9 home games and are 0-3 in home conference games this season. Their last Big Ten home win came against Minnesota on February 18 of last year. 

JANUARY 6 GAME RECAP
Northwestern was able to keep things close in the first half with an extremely slow pace (22 possessions). Both teams shot poorly (each shot 36% eFG) and together they combined to turn the ball over on 32% of their possessions.

The Gophers led 17-14 at the end of a frustrating first 20 minutes of play. However, a strong start by Minnesota in the second half set up some great entertainment in the form of a shooting clinic put on by junior wing Austin Hollins. 

The Gophers gradually built up a 30-18 lead with 12:59 left and Northwestern effectively abandoned their ultra-deliberate pace that had kept things close earlier in the game.

Austin would take advantage of the ball moving quickly up and down the court by nailing five 3-pointers in the span of just over three minutes. With 8:45 still remaining the Gophers led 45-25 and emptied their bench. It was over.

Despite the slow start, the game’s final statistics didn’t look all that uncommon for Minnesota. Although turnovers were ugly and seen often, the Gophers were able to blow out Northwestern by getting a ton of offensive rebounds and earning trips to the line.

THE REMATCH
Wednesday’s game should look much the same. The Wildcats will try to dictate a slow pace and hope that they’re shooting well enough to keep it close. 

In the first meeting senior guard Reggie Hearn (14.5 ppg) returned to the floor after missing two games with an ankle injury. He didn’t look like himself in the first half and missed his only shot attempt. In the second half, Hearn looked much better and put up 11 points on 4/7 shooting.

In his last two games (at Illinois and vs. Indiana), Hearn played all but one minute and scored 22 and 20 points, respectively. Bill Carmody said Monday that, “he’s pretty much recovered… he might favor it a little bit, his ankle, but he’s playing real well.”

The Gophers are losers of their last two, but falling to Michigan and Indiana shouldn’t cause any degree of panic. However, a loss to the Wildcats would warrant increasing concerns.

Minnesota should have no issues dominating the glass, but Gopher turnovers plus excellent shooting by Northwestern could put the 'Cats in a position to surprise. The Gophers’ turnover rate has been over 21% in each of their Big Ten games this year and they’d love to prove they can be better with the ball.

KEY PLAYERS

Senior Reggie Hearn (14.5p, 4.6r, 59.8% eFG, 66.2 FTR). Hearn has reached the 20-point mark on three occasions this season.

Dave Sobolewski (11.3p, 2.2r, 4.4a, 2.3:1 A:TO ratio, 41.6% 3FG). Steady sophomore point guard can pass and shoot.

Other Players to Watch:

  • Jared Swopshire (9.3p, 6.0r) 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 (6.8p, 37.0% 3FG). High-volume shooter off the bench.
     
  • Alex Olah (6.1p, 4.3r). The freshman center shot 1/7 in Minnesota, but a few just missed from close range. Assist rate of 25%; after four games in a row with no assists, Olah was credited for five against Indiana. 
     
  • Kale Abrahamson (4.9p, 39.6% 3FG). Six-foot seven -inch freshman can fill it up from deep. Odd release, but it works.
     
  • Alex Marcotullio (4.1p). Senior guard has struggled from long range (12/43 for 27.9%), but is capable.
     
  • Mike Turner (2.1p, 2.4r, 5.8 blk%) can help inside when he’s not picking up fouls with amazing frequency.

OTHER NOTES

  • Tubby Smith said Monday that Joe Coleman had an ankle sprain last week, but an MRI has been completed and “it was nothing serious.”
     
  • Smith also talked about Rodney Williams having tweaked his hip against Indiana and also mentioned that Rodney wore a sleeve on his knee against Michigan.
     
  • Overall, however, Smith didn’t sound very concerned about the health of Coleman or Williams going forward and both are expected to play against Northwestern.
     
  • Northwestern star forward Drew Crawford (out for season after shoulder surgery) and freshman Sanjay Lumpkin (wrist) of Benilde St. Margaret’s high school (St. Louis Park, Minn.) will again watch from the bench as they did in the first meeting with Minnesota.
     
  • Excluding Crawford (who averaged 30+ minutes in 10 games), Northwestern has three players averaging 30+ minutes per game. 
     
  • Minnesota’s most recent opponent, Michigan, plays four guys 30+ minutes a night.
  • No Gophers are averaging 30 minutes per game.

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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball