Gophers men’s basketball game at Nebraska game canceled for Wednesday
Minnesota will have to wait to show they can be better away from home.
When Marcus Carr dunked on a fast break to extend the Gophers’ second-half lead to 13 over Michigan on Saturday, the point guard locked eyes with teammates on Minnesota’s bench. Without fans to share the hype, there was only a closed-circuit vibe within Williams Arena.
The U improved to a perfect 11-0 at The Barn and spoiled the Wolverines’ 11-0 start with a 75-57 win. The 23rd-ranked Gophers put together a comprehensive, wire-to-wire takedown of the seventh-ranked team in the country.
While it didn’t look like an upset, it was because Minnesota looks nothing like this in road games. At home, the Gophers win by an average of 17 points; on the road, they lose by 19 per game.
The Gophers will have to wait to show they can play better on the road. On Sunday, Minnesota’s next game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Wednesday in Lincoln, Neb., was postponed due to their COVID-19 outbreak that has infected head coach Fred Hoiberg and 11 others within their program.
Minnesota’s next game is now Saturday at Williams Arena against Maryland. The U will then have two road games at Purdue on Jan. 30 and at Rutgers on Feb. 4.
“Let's take a deep breath and see where that goes and keep moving,” coach Richard Pitino said Saturday. “The one thing about COVID is you have no idea what the future holds.”
This wild swing in performance based on location is head-scratching because there are no fans (besides a few family members) in any arena. On Saturday, there were no students dressed in costumes of barnyard animals, no alums roaring when Liam Robbins drilled 3-pointers to dagger Michigan’s chances.
“There are no environments,” Pitino said. “It’s not a normal year. It’s not tough to play on the road because there are no fans. The challenges that you have at home are the same as they are on the road. That is the bottom line. If we defend like we did (Saturday), if we disrupt like we did (Saturday), we’ll be better in any venue. It doesn’t matter where we play.”
Until now, the Gophers were able to play all 15 games as scheduled this season without a cancellation or postponement. The Nebraska game was in doubt for a week because Nebraska has stopped practices and had two previous games called off.
The safety protocols that have kept fans out of Williams Arena has diminished what would have been some raucous atmospheres this season. This brings out laments.
“We’ve had six Saturday games, and I bet all of them would have been sold out this year,” Pitino said. “We didn’t have any (Saturday games) at Williams Arena. There are no fans; it’s all neutral sites.”
Minnesota’s 4-4 start against eight ranked Big Ten teams shows the Gophers can be in the conference’s upper tier. But until they beat teams from the lower tier on the road, they won’t be considered a contender for the real neutral-site tournament games come March.