Photo by Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

IU basketball game day: Hoosiers can’t afford to slip against road weary Minnesota

Indiana begins an important two game home stand on Wednesday evening when the Minnesota Golden Gophers arrive at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.

Minnesota has yet to win a game this season away from its home court, and with IU flirting with the NCAA Tournament bubble, the Hoosiers cannot afford to be the first to lose at home to the Golden Gophers.

Overall the Golden Gophers arrive losers of six of their last nine games, but they also have enough weapons to pull off big wins, as they have done several times this season already.

It is Indiana and Minnesota from Bloomington, and the loser might end up staying home for March Madness.


GAME DAY ESSENTIALS

Minnesota (13-8, 6-8) at Indiana (11-9, 6-7)

  • Tip time:  Wednesday, 9:00 p.m. ET
  • Location: Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, Bloomington, Ind.
  • Television:  BTN (Brandon Gaudin and Stephen Bardo)
  • IU Radio Network (Don Fischer, Errek Suhr, Joe Smith)
  • Series:  Indiana leads 103-69 (Indiana won last meeting 72-67 in 2000)
  • Point Spread:  Indiana is a 4.5 point favorite
  • KenPom has No. 29 Indiana by 3 points over No. 40 Minnesota

Minnesota is led by Richard Pitino who is 140-116 in 8 years in Minneapolis.

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MEET THE GOLDEN GOPHERS

Minnesota started the season 6-0 with six games against teams ranked outside the KenPom top-100.  Since then the Golden Gophers are just 7-8, but can claim some impressive home wins against Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan and Purdue.  Although there are no fans on the road, Minnesota has not traveled well, amassing an 0-7 mark away from Williams Arena.  They have lost those road games by an average margin of 18.4 points per contest.

The Golden Gophers have been better on the offensive end where they are No. 34 in KenPom adjusted offensive efficiency.  Ball security has been a leading positive for Minnesota with a 15.1 percent turnover rate, good for No. 9 nationally and No. 2 in the Big Ten.

Minnesota shoots a lot of 3-pointers, in fact the most in the Big Ten as a percentage of total shots (44 percent).  But strangely enough they make a league worst 28.8 percent from long range in conference games.

On the defensive end UM comes in at No. 54 in KenPom adjusted defensive efficiency.  What they do best is protect the rim with an 11.5 percent block rate which contributes to teams shooting just 47.7 percent from 2-point range.  In Big Ten play, however, both of these figures drop off.  The Golden Gophers are allowing a league worst 32.7 percent offensive rebounding rate in league games.

6-foot-2 junior point guard Marcus Carr has a 33.8 percent assist rate, which is No. 39 in the country.  He got off to a fast start, with five games of 26 or more points in Minnesota’s first nine contests.  But Carr has topped the 20 point mark just twice in the subsequent 12 games.  He has only made 5 of his last 26 3-pointers.

7-foot center Liam Robbins is questionable for the game, and as Minnesota’s most productive frontcourt player, that is particularly noteworthy.  Robbins, who is nursing an ankle injury, has a 10.4 percent block rate, good for No. 24 nationally.  He is also one of the top players in the country at drawing fouls.  More than 25 percent of Minnesota’s possessions with Robbins in the game end in a make, miss or turnover by the Golden Gopher big man.

6-foot-2 freshman guard Jamal Mashburn is trending favorably, coming off a career high 14 points on Sunday against Maryland and double-figure points in three of his last four games.  He hasn’t been a particularly efficient scorer, but Mashburn is someone who is likely to look for more offense if Robbins cannot go.

Indiana fans remember 6-foot-4 guard Gabe Kalscheur, who torched the Hoosiers as a freshman with a six 3-pointer performance in 2019.  But the story has been much different this year.  Kalscheur has struggled from behind the arc, but did have a 4-of-7 game last week in a home win over Purdue.

6-foot-6 wing Both Gach has been bothered by a foot injury and has seen limited minutes of late.  In his place, 6-foot-5 sophomore Tre Williams has been good and is emerging, making 7 of his last 15 3-point attempts.  Williams is Minnesota’s most reliable threat to score from behind the arc with a 36.1 percent make rate.  He is coming off a career-high tying 10 points on Sunday.

6-foot-8 forward Brandon Johnson is likely to be a focal point in the frontcourt if Robbins can’t go.  The Western Michigan transfer can score out to the 3-point line, takes care of the ball, and is a capable rebounder.  Eight of his 13 makes from 3-point range came in one game, a win over Iowa.  Johnson had four straight double-figures scoring games before foul trouble limited his role against Maryland on Sunday.

6-foot-9 Eric Curry and 6-foot-9 Isaiah Ihnen are likely to see expanded roles if Robbins doesn’t play.  Curry is a veteran who has missed two entire seasons due to knee injuries.  He can score inside and out.  Ihnen had a career high 12 points on Sunday.  He looks to score primarily from behind the arc.


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