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Gophers’ Eric Curry could be ready for Hawkeyes

Minnesota’s center was carried off the court Wednesday at Michigan State but could be available for Sunday’s game against Iowa.

NCAA Basketball: Minnesota at Indiana
Minnesota Golden Gophers forward Eric Curry (1) dribbles the ball while Indiana Hoosiers forward Jordan Geronimo (22) defends in the first half Jan. 9, 2022, at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Indiana.
Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today Sports
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It didn’t look good for Eric Curry when he went down with what appeared to be a left ankle injury with a minute left in Wednesday’s 71-69 loss at No. 10 Michigan State. But Minnesota Golden Gophers coach Ben Johnson said Friday the team’s starting center could play Sunday against Iowa.

Johnson said Curry’s status is day-to-day, adding, “If he can go, he can go, and we’ll kind of take it from there.”

Curry was injured when teammate Jamison Battle, falling after an attempted defensive rebound, landed on his left foot. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound center was carried off the court by trainers.

It was a big blow in a tight loss. Curry, a sixth-year senior who has started all 14 of the Gophers’ games this season, scored a team-high 19 points and added seven rebounds in 29 minutes against the Spartans, who won on a last-second lay-in.

Curry has had two entire seasons erased by knee injuries, and another cut short by a foot injury, but this one doesn’t appear serious.

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“I’m pretty sure he knows it’s not too crazy, like his last few injuries,” said teammate and longtime friend Peyton Willis. “He’s still in high spirits.”

Minnesota (10-4, 1-4 Big Ten) beat Michigan in Ann Arbor on Dec. 11 but has lost three straight conference games since, falling to Illinois, Indiana and the Spartans. If the Gophers are going to make their goal of an NCAA tournament berth, they need to start winning some of these close games. They were blown out by Illinois, 76-53, but their other three Big Ten losses have been by eight points or fewer.

Iowa (12-4, 2-3 Big Ten) has won five of its past six games and behind forward Keegan Murray leads the conference in scoring, averaging 86.5 points a game. Murray, the son of former Iowa forward Kenyon Murray, leads the nation in scoring, averaging 24.7 points a game.

Johnson has been using a seven-man rotation during conference play. If Curry can’t go, 6-9 forward Charlie Daniels, a rotation mainstay, will likely start at center and be backed up by 6-7 Danny Ogele. Both are seniors, but on paper it’s a considerable drop off. Curry averages 8.7 points and a team-high 6.8 rebounds a game. Daniels, a senior transfer from Stephen F. Austin, averages 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds, and Ogele has played in only five games.

“(Daniels) is strong, physical, he can defend in the post. He knows our offense and knows how we want to play,” Johnson said. “He’s different from Eric, but If Eric can’t go, there’s going to be an opportunity to step up and play an additional, probably, 5 or 10 minutes.”

As for Ogele, the coach said, “If Eric’s down, it’s next guy up, and he’s that next guy. So, these next two days will be important for the whole team.”

Certainly for Curry.

“If it’s a sprain, it’s a sprain and there’s protocol,” Johnson said. “Normally, it’s one to three weeks. If it’s not a sprain and it’s something else, well, then that’s kind of up to Eric in terms of the comfort level and the pain. My biggest thing is I’m never going to put a guy out there where you can increase the injury or make it worse.

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“If he’s out there, he’s out there because he feels good about it.”

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