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March 8, 2012According to many, it's hard to beat the same team three times in a row in a season.
Michigan won't have to find out.
The Wolverines will play No. 10 seed Minnesota in Friday's Big Ten Tournament action following the Golden Gophers' overtime win over No. 7 seed Northwestern, a team U-M beat twice in overtime. Tubby Smith's team rallied from a 61-57 deficit to capture a 75-68 win, doing it without injured big man Ralph Sampson III. Sampson, out with a knee injury, is expected to miss Friday's 6:30 game with Michigan, as well.
Minnesota was led by freshman Andre Hollins, who scored 11 points in the first seven minutes and 25 overall, making five of his 10 triples. Austin Hollins and the athletic Rodney Williams each finished with 12 points.
U-M beat Minnesota 61-56 back in January, the Wolverines' second game on the Big Ten slate.
"They're tough ," Smith said. "They're just playing with a lot of confidence. They've got some talented players. We haven't seen them in a long time, since early in the season.
"There are some similarities in their offensive style and their defensive style [with Northwestern], but it's two different teams, and they're very athletic in key positions with [point guard Trey] Burke. So we really have our hands full, but it's always tough to prep for a John Beilein team."
Smith's message to his team before the tournament started: respect the opponent, but don't fear them. They'll take that mindset - and confidence - into Friday night's game.
"It's probably a little hard for us because it's been so long [since we played]," Williams said. "But we know that they're a team that can shoot the three really well, just like this Northwestern team, and they run the same kind of offense and the defense, as well. So we've just got to come out and play our side of the ball, get stops and run the floor, and we'll be all right.
"I think that definitely helps us because they're a similar team, so we've just got to go out there with the same mindset that we had tonight and we'll be just fine."