N. Dakota St.-Minnesota Preview
Following a historic moment in the career of Tubby Smith, history will be on Minnesota's side Tuesday night as it goes for a 16th consecutive victory over North Dakota State and tries to remain undefeated against Summit League teams since 1936.
With the 13th-ranked Golden Gophers (10-1) matching last season's longest winning streak at six with Saturday's 71-57 victory at Southern California, Smith became the 19th active Division I coach to reach 500 victories - the last 113 with Minnesota.
"This is a huge win for coach's career," said sophomore guard Andre Hollins, who finished with a team-high 14 points. "Part of the history books. Obviously, it shows how great of a coach he is, how great a person he is and it is translating over to us being a winning basketball team."
With two games left before Big Ten play kicks off Dec. 31 against 19th-ranked Michigan State, the Golden Gophers will go for their first 7-0 surge since Dec. 5, 2009-Jan. 2, 2010.
Minnesota appears to be in good position to match that run as it is 26-1 in this series and 61-1 against teams currently in the Summit League. That lone defeat was 33-29 to North Dakota State on Dec. 12, 1936.
The Golden Gophers, though, were in danger of falling to the Bison last Dec. 22 before holding on for a 63-59 home win.
As strong as Minnesota has looked in the early going, it realizes it has to put teams away when given the opportunity. The Golden Gophers' lead Saturday was trimmed to single digits with 5:41 left before Hollins scored six of their final 10 points.
"We need to attack the gaps and make them play us," he said. "Instead we were playing outside of them, not being aggressive so that's one of the things we have to get better at as a team."
Next up is a North Dakota State squad that gave top-ranked Indiana a minor scare Nov. 12 before losing 87-61 at the Legends Classic.
Since that defeat, the Bison (8-2) have won seven of eight. If they're going to post a season high-tying fourth straight victory and end the Golden Gophers' 20-game home winning streak against non-conference foes, junior guard Taylor Braun will likely have to play a crucial role.
Braun, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds in last season's loss at Minnesota, is averaging team highs with 15.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals. He's reached the 20-point plateau in a career-best three consecutive games after scoring 22 with a career high-tying five steals in Sunday's 72-52 victory over North Dakota.
The Golden Gophers also need to keep an eye on junior guard Mike Felt, who is shooting 46.2 percent (30 for 65) from 3-point range. Felt scored all nine of his points on 3s last season at Minnesota.