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Following Saturday’s game against Purdue, I was left wondering where this Gophers team was hiding all season. It seems like the Gophers are finally finding their stride.

Saturday’s game was one of the most dominant performances I’ve watched. Devoe Joseph, forced into the starting lineup when Al Nolen was declared academically ineligible, ran the offense smoothly while contributing 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III dominated inside, with Sampson leading the Gophers with 13 points, followed by Iverson contributing 11 points.

Most importantly, the Gophers’ defense was stifling. Damian Johnson and Paul Carter took turns terrorizing Purdue with their athleticism on defense. Iverson and Sampson altered shots all day while usally limiting Purdue to one shot. Most of Purdue’s shots chipped paint off the rim. Purdue finished the day with a 27.6 percent shooting percentage.

So dominant was their defense that, with 4 minutes left in the first half, CBS announcers Clark Kellogg and Jim Nantz were still wondering if Purdue would break Northwestern’s record for fewest points in the first half. That’s because the Gophers forced Purdue into an 11 minute scoring drought in the first half. For the record, Northwestern still holds the record with 6 points in the first half. A late Purdue ‘burst’ helped them finish the half with 11 points.

Another piece of proof that the Gophers’ defense was dominant came from the fact that, with 4 minutes left in the game, the Gophers first half total was more than Purdue had for the entire game.

Simply put, there was so much proof of Minnesota’s defensive dominance that I’m not even close to citing all the different pieces of proof. In fact, I haven’t said nearly enough about Damian Johnson’s and Paul Carter’s defense. Suffice it to say that their defense all but eliminated Purdue’s E`Twaun Moore’s drives. Moore finished the game with 1 field goal in 14 attempts.

Right now, the Gophers are playing with an incredible amount of poise offensively and defensively. They’re also playing with alot of energy. The great thing about Saturday’s game was that the Gophers’ starters only played an average of 22 minutes a game, with Iverson and Carter playing another 40 minutes combined. In other words, Tubby was able to give his starters alot of rest Saturday so they’ll be fresh for Sunday’s Big Ten Championship Game against Ohio State.

It’s too much to ask for the Gophers to play as good of defense as they played Saturday but they should cause Ohio State fits. The other intriguing thing about Ohio State is that they play essentially with 4 wings and a low post person whereas the Gophers play a physical type of game.

Expect Carter and Damian Johnson to have the job of stopping Ohio State supersoph Evan Turner. Turner is talented enough to cause Carter and Johnson fits but the Gophers present their own matchup problems, too. Ohio State doesn’t have an answer for Devoe Joseph, nor do they have the answer for the Gopher Twin Towers of Iverson and Sampson.

It’s just nice to be able to enjoy a dominant Gopher victory over a team that entered the tournament as the 6th ranked team in the nation.

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