Saturday, December 4, 2010, and Daily Gopher Previews

Below, additional previews from, and the Daily Gopher...

Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said he doesn’t expect to have one of his top defenders, starting point guard Al Nolen, in the lineup for at least the next couple of weeks. Judging by their first game without him, it might be a rough couple of weeks for the Golden Gophers.

With Nolen likely out again, No. 15 Minnesota will try to bounce back from its first loss of the season Saturday night against visiting Cornell.

Smith announced last Saturday that Nolen had an injured foot, one day before his team ascended to its highest ranking in his three-plus seasons.

"It is really tough,” senior guard Blake Hoffarber said. “(Nolen) is one of the best defenders in the country. Hopefully, he can get back soon. Anytime you’re missing your point guard, it’s going to be tough on the team.”

Without Nolen, the Gophers (6-1) were outscored 58-40 in the second half Monday, and gave up a season high for points in an 87-79 home loss to Virginia. Smith called his team’s effort “pathetic.”

“It was probably one of our worst defensive games in a while,” said Hoffarber, who scored a team-best 19 points. “Hopefully this will be a wakeup call for us.”

Starting forward Rodney Williams was also limited to a season-low seven minutes because of a sprained ankle, and his status is unknown for Saturday. The Gophers, though, should have one of their top reserves, Devoe Joseph, on the floor for the second time since serving a six-game suspension for a violation of team rules.

The junior guard scored 16 points in his season debut after averaging 9.4 as a sophomore. He’ll next try to help hand Cornell its first five-game losing streak since the end of the 2003-04 campaign.

The Big Red (2-5) will also try to avoid their second loss to a Top 25 opponent in as many games. They fell 78-58 at No. 8 Syracuse on Tuesday.

While compiling a school and Ivy League record 29 victories last season, Cornell won two of five matchups against ranked teams, and lost by only five at then-top ranked Kansas.

The Big Red, who also advanced to the NCAA tournament regional semifinals, returned just one starter from that team, junior guard Chris Wroblewski.

Wroblewski is averaging a team-best 13.8 points despite not having fully recovered from a sprained ankle. He also missed the first two games after suffering a broken nose in a preseason practice.

Wroblewski scored nine points during a 71-54 loss at Minnesota on Dec. 6, 2008. The Big Red led by as much as 13 in that game but were outscored 43-14 in the second half.

Ralph Sampson III was one of three Gophers players in double figures with 10 points and had a team-best six rebounds.

Minnesota has a 5-0 lead in the series, but one of those wins during the 1976-77 season was later forfeited due to the Gophers’ use of an ineligible player.

The Gophers will look to get back in the win column against the Cornell Big Red on Saturday night. Minnesota is coming off their first loss of the season to Virginia and will need to play better tonight to knock off Cornell.
Game Outlook: The Gophers are coming off their first loss of the season to Virginia in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. In the game, the Gophers’ defense struggled, giving up 87 points to the visiting Cavaliers. The absence of point guard Al Nolen was most noticeable on the defensive end. After an extended period of preparation, look for Minnesota to have a much more improved and energetic defense against the Big Red.

One of the keys to tonight’s game will be the play of the Gopher’s big men. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson struggled last game to get anything going. Iverson and Sampson, as well as Trevor Mbakwe, will need to show their dominance against a smaller Cornell team. The Big Red are not a very good team on the boards averaging 31.1 rebounds per game while giving up 41.1. The Gophers’ bigs should be able to crash the glass, get rebounds and score easy second chance points in the paint.

The key to the game for Cornell will be their three-point shooting. As a team, the Big Red are shooting over 34% from deep. Snipers like Chris Wroblewski (13.8 ppg) and Drew Ferry (10.0 ppg) will look to get hot from behind the line to sink the Gophers with three-point shooting. Minnesota will need to improve their perimeter defense if they want to stop the Big Red attack.

Season to Date: Cornell has had struggles early this year, standing with a current record of 2-5. The Big Red beat the University of Albany in their home opener and dominated the University of Delaware by a score of 75-61. The team has had to play some tough team in their non-conference schedule, including Boston University, Lehigh and Syracuse. The Big Red are not the same team they were last year in the NCAA Tournament but are still a solid squad who will be looking for a big upset tonight.

Coaching Preview: Bill Courtney is in his first season as head coach for the Big Red. Courtney has a lengthy resume with 15 years of assistant coach experience with Virginia, Virginia Tech and George Mason. Only 39 years old, Courtney will be looking for his first win against a ranked team as a head coach.

Quote to Note:Tubby Smith on the team’s recent lack of defense, “We need more defensive intensity and more defensive pressure at the point of attack.”

Random Fact: Cornell beat Temple and Wisconsin on their way to a Sweet 16 berth last season. The 12th seeded Big Red eventually lost to Kentucky by a score of 62-45.

Series History: The Gophers and Big Red have met a total of five times. The last time the teams met was during the 2008-2009 season with the Gophers winning by a score of 71-54, coming back from 12 points behind. The series started back in 1903-1904 with a Gopher victory, 46-18.

Your Minnesota Golden Gophers look to get back into the W column against the Cornell Big Red.

Game Time: 7:00 pm
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: WCCO and the Gopher radio network

This is not the same Ryan Wittman led Big Red team that stormed through the NCAA Tournament last year representing the Ivy League. This team is 2-5 with wins over Delaware and Albany.

The Gophers are expected to be without Al Nolen once again but the schedule gives this team a chance to get things figured out without their point guard. Hopefully Rodney Williams is closer to full strength and Devoe Joseph can get himself back into leading this team in the absence of Nolen. It is unfortunate that Cornell's leading scorer is also their point guard, Nolen is our best defender and I'd feel pretty good if he were defending Wroblewski.

Statistically, Cornell is a terrible rebounding team and they don't shoot all that well. Defensively they give up offensive rebounds on over a third of shots. And their effective FG% ranks 250th in the nation. Conversely we hit the offensive glass very well and our effective FG% ranks 46th nationally. I don't want to be too overconfident but even if the Gophers struggle this should be a win.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Was MA-A's absence a coach's decision?