When Minnesota hosts Indiana tonight in Minneapolis at 7:00 P.M. on ESPN2, both teams will be fighting desperately for their first Big Ten wins of the season. Both teams currently sit 0-2 in league play heading into the game.
The Hoosiers are in the midst of a four-game losing streak overall and have dropped home contests to Penn State and Ohio State to open conference play. Leading scorer Christian Watford, averaging just over 17 points per game, has been held to 10 points per game in the first two contests of conference play.
Minnesota had won five games in a row before entering Big Ten play, but has since dropped decisions at Wisconsin and Michigan State. The Golden Gophers
will be looking for a bounce back performance from Devoe Joseph, who scored only five points in the loss to Sparty will be without Devoe Joseph, who has been suspended.
Keys to the game after the jump.
When Indiana Has The Ball...
- The Hoosiers need to get Christian Watford the ball early and often to get him in the flow of the game. Against Penn State, when he scored only three points, he was taken out of the offense early and never recovered. If the Hoosiers can feed him early, it'll be much easier to keep him involved throughout. By the same token, Minnesota needs to try and disrupt Watford and keep him from getting in a rhythm.
- The Gophers need to keep Verdell Jones III on the perimeter. He's much more effective when he gets to the rim, or at least inside the arc, as he's averaging 47% from the field, but only 32% from deep. If Minnesota can keep him outside, it'll be much easier for them to contain him.
When Minnesota Has The Ball
- Obviously, containing Blake Hoffarber is priority number one for Indiana on defense. Averaging 39% from deep on the season, Hoffarber is one of the most dangerous shooters in the Big Ten and can deal daggers at any time. If Minnesota gets him going, look out.
- Minnesota would appear to have the advantage inside with two big scorers in the front court in Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III. The Gophers should look to exploit that by going inside often on this smaller Indiana team.
Both teams are desperate for a win, but you have to figure Minnesota is more desperate. With serious hopes for the NCAA Tournament, the Golden Gophers can't afford to drop this game at home to a team on a four-game skid. Of course, if Indiana has a good shooting night, it's still very possible that the Hoosiers could steal one here, but expect to see a desperate Minnesota team get after it from the get go tonight.