Minnesota will have to get used to playing without its starting point guard. Indiana knows exactly what it's like to miss production out of the backcourt.
The 18th-ranked Golden Gophers go for their second Big Ten road win Wednesday night when Indiana tries to post three straight conference victories at Assembly Hall for the first time under third-year coach Tom Crean.With senior Al Nolen out the last two games and likely sidelined for the season with a broken right foot, Minnesota (16-5, 5-4) will need Blake Hoffarber to produce from the point guard spot.Hoffarber, the Golden Gophers' leading scorer with 14.0 points per game, has been solid in the last two games -- scoring 34 points with six turnovers -- but Minnesota expects even more pressure on the senior guard."I know Blake was really flustered out there," center Colton Iverson said following Saturday's 73-61 loss at then-No. 12 Purdue. "We just need to get more open on the wing and open it up for him because they're going to be doubling him now."Minnesota, which returns home to face top-ranked Ohio State and Illinois following this matchup, could face a similar defensive strategy after Hoffarber scored a team-high 16 points in a 67-63 home win against Indiana (11-11, 2-7) on Jan. 4.The Hoosiers, though, are also undermanned at the guard position. Sophomore Maurice Creek is out indefinitely with a stress fracture on his right patella and second-leading scorer Verdell Jones III has been sidelined the last three games with an injured right knee.The Hoosiers could definitely use Jones back in the lineup as they try to rebound from Sunday's 84-83 overtime loss at then-No. 25 Michigan State. Indiana led by as many as 12 points, but senior guard Jeremiah Rivers missed two free throws in the final 42 seconds that could have helped clinch the victory."We can't accept moral victories," Rivers said. "We're past that."A return home could help Indiana, which will try to win three in a row at Assembly Hall in Big Ten play for the first time since a four-game stretch from Feb. 16-March 5, 2008. In their last home game, the Hoosiers snapped a 19-game losing streak versus ranked opponents with a 52-49 victory over then-No. 20 Illinois on Jan. 27."Home is not a cure or anything like that," Crean told the school's official website. "But I tell you what, to have that place packed for Wednesday night and Saturday (against Iowa) for these guys after the way they played the other night, the way they came up here and represented Indiana ... that would be really, really good."Minnesota, 1-4 on the road in league play, lost 81-78 in overtime in its last visit to Assembly Hall on Jan. 17, 2010.Jones scored 24 points and went to the free throw line a career-high 19 times in that matchup, while teammate Christian Watford added 16 points and 10 rebounds.Watford, a sophomore, has been a rock down low for the Hoosiers over the last three games, averaging 22.3 points -- 5.3 more than his season average -- and 6.0 rebounds.Watford, though, missed 11 of 13 shots and finished with four points in last month's loss at Minnesota.Golden Gophers forward Trevor Mbakwe, who is averaging 13.6 points and a league-best 10.6 rebounds, had 11 points and a career high-tying 16 boards in that game.Indiana is 87-62 all-time versus Minnesota.