MINNEAPOLIS - The Minnesota Golden Gophers ended the regular season in roller coaster fashion, but now they are looking for some consistency as they start the post-season on Thursday morning.
On Valentine's Day, they won an emotional game at home against rival Wisconsin in overtime, but that win was followed by a pair of blowout losses to Iowa and Ohio State.
The next week, the Gophers bounced back knocking off No. 1 Indiana and destroying Northwestern.
Confidence was high, but it didn't last. The Gophers lost a pair of road games to Nebraska and Purdue to end the regular season, discouraging losses for a team that had high hopes for the post-season.
"Obviously the last two games were big disappointments for us," forward Trevor Mbakwe said. "We knew they were big games, but we just didn't show up to play."
The Gophers earned the No. 9 seed in the in Big Ten Tournament. They will play No. 8 seed Illinois on Thursday. It's a team they defeated early in the Big Ten season, but it's also a team they lost to four days before that win over the Badgers.
"Now, it's win or go home and we're not ready to go home," Mbakwe said. "We're not ready to end our careers as a Gopher."
It's likely the Gophers, who have one of the hardest schedules in the country, have already clinched a spot in the NCAA Tournament, but a strong showing in the Big Ten Tournament could help seeding next weekend.
"We're going to give it everything we've got," forward Rodney Williams said. "There's no more, we'll get them next year. This is it for us, so we're going to go out there and give it our all and hopefully make some noise out there."
The Gophers tip off at 11 a.m. on Thursday. They are 13-15 in the Big Ten Tournament play, 7-5 under Tubby Smith. The last time they faced Illinois in the Big Ten Tournament was in the 2008 semifinals, the Gophers lost 54-50.
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