Gophers’ focus on toughness pays off in a hot start


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“We are the strongest team in this league; it always has to be who we are, ”Johnson said in a team video posted online. “We can’t change who we are because it works. “

The Gophers’ 8-1 surprise start has garnered a lot of praise, and Johnson wants to combat the possibility of a disappointment against Texas A & M-Corpus Christi (9-1), which brings an eight-game winning streak to Williams Arena on Tuesday. The outcome is set at 7 p.m.

What Johnson won’t guard against is the way outsiders talk about his first team’s difficulty in Minnesota.

“I told (the players) that now you have something to do,” Johnson said at a press conference on Monday. “This is the norm. It will never change.

“Forget the score, forget all of those other things, if you want to measure up to anything, live up to anything people say about how they think you play hard. This is what we must continue to do. “

The Gophers came out of a 36-32 halftime deficit to beat the Wolverines for their first win at Ann Arbor since 2011. Johnson knows his team have a slim margin for error, and tenacity can be a factor. intangible element that places them above. Jamison Battle erupted in the second half for 21 of his game-high 27 points, and the Gophers only returned the ball four times.

After losing 75-67 to Michigan State in the Big Ten opener last Wednesday, Minnesota hit back against Michigan for their third road win of the season. They won in Pittsburgh on November 20 and Mississippi State on December 5.

Johnson said he emphasized “competitive resistance” when assembling his almost completely remade roster through the NCAA transfer portal.

“You’ve got to kind of have that innately in you to… you can play here. It’s part of the deal, ”Johnson said. “The other part is that we demand it every day. We talk about it every day. I firmly believe that (it) helps to win. It helps with the cultural part, it helps with the state of mind. It helps with everything.

“I think if you look at the successful teams, especially in our league, there’s a big tenacity factor for them. I think that’s a part of our program that we’re always going to fall back on.

Johnson said he also tried to create chaos in preseason training to show players need to be ready to fight.

“He organized a lot of crazy situations that day,” center Eric Curry said. “… He definitely prepared us before the start of the season for these times, and that has clearly shown so far.”

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