GAME: Minnesota (23-14, 6-12 Big Ten) vs. Washington (24-10, 14-4 Pac-12). WHEN: Tuesday, 6 p.m., Madison Square Garden, New York City, NY. MEETING: 16th (Huskies lead 9-6). RANKINGS: Neither team ranked. TV: ESPN. RADIO:KJR 950 AM, 102.9 FM.
Lorenzo Romar's Washington Huskies have parlayed a well-deserved NCAA Tournament snub into a National Invitation Tournament semifinal appearance opposite Minnesota at Madison Square Garden. A victory would put the Huskies into position to win their first-ever NIT championship. If they beat the Gophers, the Huskies will play the Stanford-Massachusetts victor.
Washington, winners of three straight after its Pac-12 Tournament ouster by Oregon State March 8, is 9-6 all-time against Minnesota, a No. 6 seed in the NIT, but the teams have not met since 1991, when the Huskies registered a 77-61 win at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.
Minnesota (22-14) scored its biggest victory of the season Jan. 12, when the Gophers traveled to Bloomington, IN., and defeated the No. 8-ranked Hoosiers 77-74.
The Gophers and Huskies played three common opponents in 2011-12. Minnesota routed South Dakota State 71-55 Nov. 14. A month later, the Jackrabbits, who became an NCAA Tournament team, blasted Washington 92-73 in one of the epic losses in UW basketball history.
Minnesota also defeated Southern Cal 55-40 Dec. 3. UW posted two wins over the Trojans in Pac-12 play.
Minnesota won its season (2-1) series with Northwestern, winning 75-52 Jan. 22, losing 64-53 Feb. 18 and winning again 75-68 in OT during the Big Ten Tournament. Washington shellacked Northwestern 76-55 in the second round of the NIT.
Minnesota has an RPI of 63 after knocking off Middle Tennessee State in the NIT quarterfinals. Washington has a RPI of 50 after three straight NIT wins.
"Minnesota presents another tough challenge for us," Romar said. "They play really good hard-nosed defense. Tubby Smith is one of the best coaches around. A tough opponent like this is what you would expect to find in the final 4 of the NIT."
Minnesota is appearing in the NIT for the first time since 2003. Washington will be making its second visit to Madison Square Garden this season. In December, the Huskies lost to Marquette in the Jimmy V Classic and to Duke in the CARQUEST Auto Parts Classic.
SERIES: Dates to Dec. 27, 1939, when the Huskies lost the first of three consecutive meetings to the Gophers, 47-41 in Seattle. Between 1950-59, the Huskies scored four consecutive wins over Minnesota. The teams last played Dec. 22, 1990, in a game in which UW's Mike Hayward scored 13 of his 20 points in the first half, leading the Huskies, coached by Lynn Nance, to a 72-61 win at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. Doug Meekins aided the UW cause with nine points and 11 rebounds.
LAST GAME (Washington, March 20): Terrence Ross scored 24 points, Tony Wroten 22 and Washington held off a late rally from Pac-12 rival Oregon for a 90-86 victory. Ross made 9 of 18 shots and hit three 3-pointers after scoring a career-high 32 against Northwestern in the second round. Oregon had scored 108 points in its quarterfinal win over Iowa. Washington had its largest lead at 75-65 with 7:22 left, capping a 9-0 run.
LAST GAME (Minnesota, March 21): Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins each tallied 24 points to help Minnesota advance to the semifinals of the NIT with a 78-72 win over Middle Tennessee. Elliott Eliason added 12 points and seven rebounds for the Golden Gophers, while Hollins also had six rebounds and four assists. Marcos Knight led Middle Tennessee (27-7) with 19 points and nine rebounds.
UW IN THE NIT: Washington is making its first appearance in the NIT since 1997 and its sixth overall. The Huskies also played in 1996, 1987, 1982 and 1980 and are 6-5 after defeating Oregon Tuesday. The Huskies have hosted five NIT games and are 4-1 in those contests.
Prior to playing UT Arlington and Northwestern last week, UW last hosted an NIT game March 16, 1987, when the Huskies defeated Boise State 73-68 (UW lost in the third round to Nebraska at Lincoln). In that game, senior guard Greg Hill scored 18 of UW's 22 points in the final five minutes, including 15 in a row. The only other home NIT game hosted by UW was a 1982 second-rounder the Huskies dropped 69-65 to Texas A&M.
In this NIT, the Huskies reached the semifinals by defeating UT Arlington 82-72, Northwestern 76-55 and Oregon 90-86.
UW STATS/NOTES: Washington is 1-4 all-time in Madison Square Garden, its only win coming Dec. 30, 1941, when the Huskies routed New York University 72-38 . . . After dropping 90 points on Oregon in the NIT quarterfinals, Washington is scoring 75.9 ppg and allowing 70.1, a scoring margin of +5.7 . . . Washington also has a +5.2 rebound margin (40.0 to 34.8) over its opponents . . . UW has marginally increased its free throw accuracy during the NIT. Huskies are now making 62.3 percent . . . UW makes 6.2 3-pointers per game to 5.9 for its opponents . . . With a career-high 32 points against Northwestern and 24 against Oregon, Terrence Ross has taken over as UW's scoring leader at 16.3 ppg . . . Tony Wroten is second at 16.2 and C.J. Wilcox third at 14.3.
MINNESOTA STATS/NOTES: Minnesota, 3-2 on neutral courts, is the seventh-highest scoring team in the Big Ten, averaging 68.1 ppg. The Gophers hold foes to 64.4 ppg (6th, Big Ten) . . . Minnesota has a scoring margin of +3.6 . . . Minnesota makes 70.2 percent of its free throws (to UW's 62.3) . . . The Gophers are marginally better 3-point shooters than the Huskies, making 36.1 percent to UW's 34.1 . . . Minnesota led the Big Ten in blocked shots at 4.9 per game . . . 6-7 forward Rodney Williams is Minnesota's leading scorer, averaging 12.1 points, and also its leading rebounder at 5.5 . . . Andre Hollins led the Big Ten in free throw percentage at 91.6 . . . Of Minnesota's 14 losses this season, 13 came against teams that have appeared in postseason tournaments, including four that made the NCAA's Sweet Sixteen.
COACHES: Romar is in his 10th season as Washington’s head coach. Romar has taken the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament six times, and won three Pac-10 Tournament titles (2005, 2010, 2011). Romar, who signed a 10-year contract extension in April 2011, won his his 200th game at Washington Dec. 16, 2011, when the Huskies defeated UC Santa Barbara. He had his 300th career victory and his 100th as a conference coach when the Huskies won Jan. 21. Romar was selected the Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the third time in his career.
Romar played for the Huskies under head coach Marv Harshman during the 1979-80 seasons (served as team captain his senior year), and then had a five-year NBA career with Golden State (1981-84), Milwaukee (1984) and Detroit (1984-85). He became a college head coach at Pepperdine in 1997, where he coached for three seasons, then spent three years (1999-02) at St. Louis University before taking the Washington job in 2002-03.
Tubby Smith: Smith is in his fifth season as head coach of the Golden Gophers, and has coached them to four postseason appearances, including this NIT. In his 20-year career, Smith has claimed a National title (Kentucky in 1997-98), made four Elite Eight appearances, nine Sweet Sixteen appearances and has posted 17 straight 20-win seasons. Smith has served as head coach at Tulsa (1991-95), Georgia (1995-97), Kentucky (1997-07) and Minnesota (2007-12).University of Washington 2011-12 Schedule/Results(Rankings Are Current)
|Date||Opponent||UW Rnk||Opp Rnk||W/L||Score||Rec.|
|11/4/11||vs. Seattle Pacific||---||---||W||77-60||0-0|
|11/12/11||vs. Georgia State||---||---||W||91-74||1-0|
|11/13/11||vs. Florida Atlantic||---||---||W||77-71||2-0|
|11/20/11||at Saint Louis||---||---||L||77-64||3-1|
|11/25/11||vs. Houston Baptist||---||---||W||88-65||4-1|
|12/2/11||at Nevada||---||---||L||76-73 (OT)||4-2|
|12/16/11||vs. UC Santa-Barbara||---||---||W||87-80||5-4|
|12/18/11||vs. South Dakota St.||---||---||L||92-73||5-5|
|12/22/11||vs. Cal-State Northridge||---||---||W||74-50||6-5|
|12/29/11||vs. Oregon State||---||---||W||95-80||7-5|
|1/10/12||vs. Seattle U.||---||---||W||91-83||10-6|
|1/15/12||vs. Washington St.||---||---||W||75-65||11-6|
|1/26/12||at Arizona St.||---||---||W||60-54||13-7|
|2/12/12||at Oregon St.||---||---||W||75-72||17-8|
|2/16/12||vs. Arizona State||---||---||W||77-69||18-8|
|2/25/12||at Washington St.||---||---||W||59-55||20-8|