MINNEAPOLIS - Facing the No. 1 team in the nation is intimidating enough, but when Minnesota hosts Indiana on Tuesday night they will be coming off of two blowout losses.
"Trying to get ready for the best team in the country is always a challenge," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "Indiana is playing extremely well and we're coming off of two poor performances so it'll be a real challenge for us."
The Gophers lost by a combined 47 points over the past two games.
"When you shoot 29 percent, you are going to get beat no matter what happens and then when you add the 24 turnovers it just snowballs," Smith said. "And that's how you get beat by 26 points or 21 points."
Smith said his team needs to do two things better -- don't turn the ball over and shoot it at a higher percentage.
"Our guys have been working hard," Smith said. "We've had a few days to prepare. We've had some time off, so we've tried to work on the areas we need to improve on."
Another key will be to play hard and not get intimidated by a team that leads the Big Ten in scoring and is at or near the top in just about every other category.
"Toughness, I think," said Gophers guard Joe Coleman. "We have to come out ready to play and not let them bully us. We have to be the aggressors."
Indiana defeated Minnesota 88-81 on Jan. 12 in Bloomington.
"We are going to have to play better obviously," Gophers guard Dre Hollins said. "We know last time we spotted them 23 points at halftime and then we came back and cut it to three or two. That's what type of team we are."
Hollins led Minnesota with 25 points in the last meeting against Indiana. He is currently averaging a team and career-high 13.6 points per game this season. That ranks No. 12 in the Big Ten Conference. He says he hopes the crowd and the recent losses will inspire a great performance at The Barn on Tuesday night.
"It's huge having a sellout crowd come and watch us play. We don't want to let them down," Hollins said. "We had a couple of losses here that shouldn't have happened. It's going to be a big game. It's going to be exciting. I think the fans are going to be really edging us on to beat this No. 1 team."
The players are putting their time in on the court, practicing for the massive challenge, but they are fully aware of what a win like this would mean and what it could do for a team nearing the end of the regular season.
"It would be huge for our confidence at this point playing the No. 1 team in the nation," Hollins said. "Just getting things back on track, this is one of four games we have left on the season. We're going to have to tune it up."
Tuesday will mark the second time under Smith that the Gophers have faced the No. 1 team in the nation. They lost 82-69 to Ohio State on Feb. 6, 2011. Minnesota is 3-18 all-time against the top ranked team in the country.
"Through it all, we're still a team that has a lot of opportunities left in the regular season here to improve our resume," Smith said. "So, we're looking forward to it."
The Gophers and Indiana tip-off at 6 p.m.
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