It’s Minnesota at Maryland tonight in Big Ten action, the Gophers’ lone road test in a stretch featuring four out of five at home.
With Northwestern’s lopsided loss Tuesday night at Illinois, the Gophers are in a spot where they can move into the conference’s top four with a victory against the Terrapins. It may only last one day, however, since Michigan State plays Nebraska Thursday night and would take over the 4-spot with a win thanks to a head-to-head tiebreaker over Minnesota.
The Gophers have to love where they’re at, though, after being in the conference’s bottom third just three weeks ago. The last team to beat them on Jan. 28 was the team they face tonight: Maryland. It was after that game that the Gophers called a players-only meeting that changed the course of their season.
Head coach Richard Pitino has repeated many times how fun the team is to coach because of its lack of ego. When asked by a reporter Tuesday if this Gophers team had a greater sense of competitiveness than in recent years, Pitino changed the word to “selflessness.”
The Gophers have used a very short bench this season, typically going with eight players. One stalwart has been freshman Eric Curry, who tied a career high with 12 points against Michigan and has remarkably hit 14 of his last 19 shots over the past four games.
Pitino spoke Tuesday about his impact.
Curry’s length will be valuable Wednesday against a Maryland team that lit Minnesota up on the perimeter on Jan. 28. Freshmen Justin Jackson and Kevin Huerter scored 47 combined points and shot 10 of 12 from 3-point range.
If Minnesota could pull off the road upset, they’d inch within one game of Maryland in the standings with three to play and would have a chance at moving back into the Top 25 if they took care of business against Penn State on Saturday.