With the possible exception of Bill Murray’s
“Caddyshack” days, these past few weeks have been some
of the worst times for Gophers in recorded history.

The Michigan basketball team treks into Minneapolis tonight to
face a Minnesota team that has gone winless in its first nine Big
Ten games.

“There’s (two things) that you can do,” said
Golden Gophers coach Dan Monson of the struggles. “You can
cash it in, or you can keep working at it. I think that this group
is still working at it.”

It’s not like Minnesota hasn’t been close. On Jan.
28, the Golden Gophers led Michigan State by 23 points in the first
half at home. But the Gophers gave up a whopping 39-16 run,
spanning both halves, to lose 79-78 in overtime.

That was just a few days after frustrated junior Maurice
Hargrow, the team’s leading scorer returning from last
season, decided to transfer to another Division I school.
Hargrow’s minutes had steadily decreased as he struggled with
his shooting touch. He was even removed from the starting
lineup.

Monson has tried to keep the remaining bunch working to move
forward. But that’s not always easy when your team is
losing.

“There’s a lot of frustration,” Monson said.
“We’ve had players say, ‘Hey, we didn’t
play hard enough,’ or ‘My teammates
didn’t.’ That’s part of being
frustrated.”

Monson and his wife even brought the players cookies last
Saturday night to try and keep their spirits up.

“You’re trying little things to let them know that
we all care, and we know that guys are trying and those kinds of
things,” Monson said.

A few years ago, Monson set it up so that his players could live
together. The coach thinks things would be worse among the team was
it not such a tight-knit group.

Freshman Kris Humphries has been Minnesota’s lone bright
spot. The 6-foot-9 forward originally signed to play with Duke
before deciding to play in his home state.

Humphries leads the Big Ten in scoring. His 22 points per game
are two points more than Indiana’s Bracey Wright, who is
currently in second. And Humphries also leads the league with 10
rebounds per game.

“I think he’s a great player,”
Michigan’s defensive leader Bernard Robinson said.
“It’s definitely going to be a team effort on him
(defensively).”

Michigan’s leading freshman big man, Courtney Sims, faced
Humphries at a Nike basketball camp before college. Sims’s
team knocked off Humphries’s at the camp, and he takes the
confidence from having won that game into tomorrow night.

“I’m not intimidated by anybody,” Sims said.
“He’s a good player and everything. But I don’t
care who I play, I’m not going to be intimidated by
anyone.”

Minnesota would like nothing more than to get its first notch in
the win column tonight. Cookies can only do so much to lift the
team’s spirits.

“Winning solves a lot of things,” Monson said.

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