Most of us are eagerly awaiting 1pm tomorrow. We've had the bad taste of Tuesday night in our mouth, fouling everything we achieved on Saturday. To make matters worse, Notre Dame, the rival that's too afraid to play us, knocked off the #2 team in the country this week. Michigan State lost to Michigan, thus worsening our best win. Finally, Indiana beat an Illinois team that essentially crapped itself and allowed the legions of Indiana fans to scream, "we're back!" since the Hoosiers beat their first ranked team in three years.
If that's not the definition of a bad week I don't know what is. This has all been playing in the background as the mystery bad thing I have alluded to was confirmed yesterday. I'm looking forward to getting Minnesota at home in an increasingly more important game.
If today is a snapshot, Ohio State is going to run away with the Big Ten and a #1 seed. The goal of this season has always been a trip to Houston, and that is still entirely possible. Yes, we have a tough schedule remaining, but the home game against Ohio State and the road trip to Wisconsin look like the only overly difficult games left. I do not fear Indiana or Iowa (three of our remaining ten games). Illinois and Michigan State don't look as frightening anymore, and I feel we have a favorable matchup with Wisconsin. That leaves Ohio State and Minnesota left. Even the Big Ten can't be counted out right now with OSU having two games left against Wisconsin and a trip to Minnesota left. The conference has a clear top four of OSU, Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. We have four games remaining in that group, and three are in the friendly confines of Mackey Arena. All we need to do is defend home court and drop a maximum of one road game left and we'll be fine for a decent seed in March.
I won't be able to watch this one, as Mrs. T-Mill and I have concert tickets for Avenged Sevenfold and Stone Sour in Cincinnati, but it is the game that will get us back on the happy side of the ledger. A win over Minnesota evens the season series and gives us another quality win. That is merely step one toward a solid finishing kick.
2009-10 Record: 21-14, 9-9 Big Ten
2010-11 Record: 16-4, 5-3 Big Ten
Postseason Result: Lost to Xavier 65-54 in NCAA First Round
Series with Purdue: Purdue leads 95-80
Last Purdue win: 2/24/10 59-58 at Minnesota
Last Minnesota win: 1/13/11 70-67 at Minnesota
Time & TV: 1pm on CBS
|Ralph Sampson III||20||28.0||3.8||8.0||47.5||0.2||0.7||21.4||3.0||4.2||72.3||1.8||3.7||5.4||1.5||1.3||0.6||2.2||2.6||10.8|
A major concern, starting in the Minnesota game and continuing through the Ohio State game, has been the collapse of our perimeter defense. Blake Hoffarber got loose for four three-pointers and we gave up 41 points in the first half up in Minneapolis. That is alarmingly uncharacteristic for a team that prides itself on playing tough D. We have been exceedingly vulnerable to the pick-n-pop three, and it is baffling since we're one of the best teams in the country at defending the three-pointer.
Of course, this time around Minnesota will not have Al Nolen. Nolen torched us for 13 points and eight assists. Nolen hurt from long range and he got to the free throw line. The Golden Gophers have only been without him for one game since he went down with a stress fracture in his foot, but it was an 81-70 win over Northwestern this week. He also did not play earlier in the season in their loss to Virginia.
Hoffarber and Nolen were really the only players that hurt us in the first game, and with Nolen out Hoffarber is their only consistent threat on the perimeter. It should be different from having to defend every shooter while doubling Jared Sullinger. Minnesota had a distinct size advantage, but we won the rebounding battle by 10. Trevor Mbakwe finished with 10 of their 24 rebounds as we kept Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III off the glass.
In truth, we weren't that far from beating them even with Hoffarber going off. We didn't hit a field goal in the last nine and a half minutes and we still had a shot to tie at the end in a hostile road environment. JaJaun Johnson was virtually unstoppable with 29 points, while E'Twaun Moore had possibly his worst game as a Boiler. As long as he doesn't score just four points again we will be fine.
There were a lot of other good things from that game. Lewis Jackson had 15 points. We were a perfect 13 of 13 from the line. We had 18 assists on 23 baskets. Really, we probably win with ease as long as we get the usual Smooge. Terone Johnson even had solid game with eight points off the bench. We don't need to change a lot in order to make this a win tomorrow. We need to start defending the perimeter again and get E'Twaun hitting shots. Since we're back home, I expect both to happen. We also need to forget the Ohio State game happened. Everyone has horrible nights. It is how you recover that makes a difference.