The Gophers’ starting lineup was a little dinged up against Michigan, coach Tubby Smith said in today’s Big Ten conference call – perhaps partly accounting for two somewhat lackluster performances in that game.

Joe Coleman sprained an ankle at Indiana, and has been dealing with that injury ever since, Smith said. The sophomore sat out practice on Saturday (the team had a film session on Friday and took the day off yesterday) after receiving an MRI, but with it coming back clean, Coleman should be back today, Smith said.

Also, Rodney Williams is dealing with a knee injury and a groin issue as well, the coach said. Williams apparently tweaked both against Indiana and wore a knee sleeve against Michigan.

Asked whether he thinks that had a significant impact on the way the senior played vs. the Wolverines, Smith said, “He wasn’t himself, let’s put it that way.”

Williams has been complaining some about his hip/groin area since the Indiana game as well.

“I think the combination of that, and being bumped, and when you go up against the best, too, they are a pretty talented team, you want to be at your full strength,” Smith said. “Psychologically, I’m thinking he’s fine, but in reality, he probably wasn’t fully mentally sharp or physically sharp, but he’s fine now.”

Other notes from today’s media teleconference:

  • Smith said after openly questioning the team’s effort Thursday against Michigan following what he called a “disappointing” practice, he’s seen the team get back on track some. “I’ve seen them refocus,” he said. “They understand what they did wrong and it’s a matter of correcting it. We did some things, just correcting our ballhandling and our passing and stuff like that, so I have seen some improvement.”
  • He did hedge some on the poor practice, which he spoke of on Thursday: “I thought it was a situation where, hey, we’ve got some guys dinged up, you don’t want to go too hard and get someone hurt and that type of thing. But it wasn’t so much that -- after watching the game, we played against a very good team and we just gave up too many easy baskets early on. We didn’t handle the ball very well, with turnovers. It’s the mental toughness part in just taking care of the ball and the practice – again, that carries over. We weren’t turning it over the day before, it was just the intensity and the toughness that you have to have, it just wasn’t really [there.] And that’s been a problem for us this year, you know, taking care of the ball – matter of fact for a couple years now. So we’ve got to figure out how to address that.
  • Smith on the dangerousness of the team’s offensive balance: “It does put some pressure on the defense because now you really can’t help off of somebody else. If Trevor Mbakwe is having a good game and they’re getting the ball to him in the post, that usually opens up the outside for us with Andre, and Joe Coleman is very good at attacking. They each do something well, and versatility in our lineup, I think, gives us the balance we need.”

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