Saturday, December 4th, 8:00 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Scott Haynes, Senior College Basketball Editor
FACTS & STATS: Site: Williams Arena (14,625) -- Minneapolis, Minnesota. Television: BTN. Home Record: Cornell 1-1, Minnesota 3-1. Away Record: Cornell 1-4, Minnesota 0-0. Neutral Record: Cornell 0-0, Minnesota 3-0. Conference Record: Cornell 0-0, Minnesota 0-0. Series Record: Minnesota leads, 4-1.
GAME NOTES: The 15th-ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers will attempt to bounce back from their first loss of the season, when they play host to the Cornell Big Red this evening, in non-conference action from Williams Arena.
Tubby Smith's Gophers opened the year with six consecutive wins, including capturing the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship. However, the good times came to a crashing halt this week in Minneapolis, as Minnesota fell to visiting Virginia, 87-79 as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Bill Courtney's Big Red have won just twice in seven outings thus far, with the last one coming back on November 17th against Delaware (75-61). Since that time, Cornell has fallen in four straight outings, including a 78-58 rout at the hands of nationally-ranked Syracuse on Tuesday.
This is the sixth meeting in the series between these two teams, with Minnesota winning all five previous matchups, although the Golden Gophers forfeited the 1976-77 game for using an ineligible player.
When a team is shooting the ball at a mere .374 clip and getting outscored by 5.1 ppg on average, it isn't easy to pile up the victories. That has been Cornell's plight thus far as the team has really struggled to find offensive consistency. Junior guards Chris Wroblewski and Drew Ferry are the top offensive threats at 13.8 and 10.0 ppg, respectively, but both are shooting under 40 percent from the floor. The pair have combined for 28 three-pointers in the first five games, while Wroblewski is the one player for Cornell that opponents shouldn't foul (.917 from the free-throw line, 22-of-24). To make matters worse for Cornell, the team's third leading scorer Aaron Osgood (9.2 ppg) is out with a knee injury. In the 20-point loss to the Orange, Cornell got 14 points from Errick Peck, nine from Ferry and eight from Wroblewski, but the team once again struggled to find a groove offensively, converting just 33.9 percent from the floor, including a 24.1 percent clip from behind the arc (7-of-29).
The Gophers have had no trouble generating points this season, as the team enters this contest averaging a steady 78.4 ppg, on .474 shooting. Devoe Joseph saw his first action against Virginia this week and made the most of it by putting up 16 points. Blake Hoffarber (15.6 ppg, team-high 24 three- pointers), Trevor Mbakwe (14.3 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and Ralph Sampson III (11.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) give the team plenty of depth. In the loss to Virginia, Mbakwe recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Hoffarber hit five three pointers to finish with 19 points, while Joseph came off the bench with his 16.
Although Cornell made a magical run to the Sweet 16 less than a year ago, a lot has changed and this team doesn't resemble that one in the slightest. The Golden Gophers can't be happy with their performance at home against Virginia and will be prepared this evening to make the Big Red pay for it.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Minnesota 81, Cornell 60