Al Nolen has been on the bench for the last five games with a foot injury.

But the senior point guard said he's back and ready to play big minutes against South Dakota State Thursday, the Gophers' last nonconference game of the 2010-11 season.

The Gophers open Big Ten action with road matchups against Wisconsin and Michigan State next week. Nolen says he wants to use Thursday's game to shake the rust off before that tough two-game stretch.

"Right now, [my foot] is feeling pretty good out there on the court," he said. "I'm playing [Thursday], definitely."

Tubby Smith said he's more comfortable running his ball-line defense with Nolen, one of the top on-the-ball defenders in the country. He said he'll move Devoe Joseph to the bench if he decides to start Nolen Thursday.

"He'll probably go back in the starting lineup. I'm not sure at this point and time," Smith said.



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