Trevor Mbakwe, Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams only had a moment to take in every player’s dream come true.
Then they were knocked down, landing at what would end up being something like a football dogpile, Williams said.
“All the sudden, Trevor fell, and I ended up falling, and Andre Hollins ended up falling – so we were just all in the middle of the court on the ground for a while,” Williams said. “That’s something – you watch it on TV all the time and you always wish for it and it finally happened. I just didn’t think it was going to happen so fast with the raised court.”
Fans, obviously hungry for the chance, got in there quick, filling the court to its edges in one of the more impressive storms of a stormy season.
It had been a long time, you see – scribes who have been around these parts for longer tried to remember when the last time Williams Arena hosted a storm, and the reckonings went back to the 80s before they drew a blank.
The Gophers last beat a No. 1 team in 1989, when No. 11 Illinois game to town.
But you didn’t need to remind the players how long it had been to draw excitement. After Trevor Mbakwe’s tear on both ends of the court paved the way, and Andre Hollins’ late clutchness sealed their hard work, the Gophers basked in the on-pouring of fans that have grown ever more frustrated with Minnesota winning just three games in the last 11, falling apart once more down the stretch.
Tonight, was about the win, and the moment.
“There’s people grabbing your arms, pushing you, you’re trying to create some space, people are jumping up and down and screaming, you’re screaming, you’re adrenaline is up, you’re happy about the win, it’s hot, you’re sweating like you’re still in the game, but it was a lot of fun at the same time,” said Austin Hollins, still wrapped up in the moment after the team had paraded to the locker room.
The Gophers work is far from done, but for the evening, the glory was worth basking in.
Some quick notes on the 77-73 final:
· I don’t think I’ve ever seen Mbakwe as aggressive as he was in the first half tonight, when he came out with a mission. To the Gophers’ credit, they did a good job of getting him the ball inside the paint, but from there he went to work. He was all over the boards, played great defense on Cody Zeller (who was held to 9 points, 7 rebounds) and battled inside. This is what fans have been wanting to see every time.
· Mbakwe’s eight field goals were a career high.
· The Gophers shooting woes from the outside continued. But it was impressive to see them make it work in other ways, namely working the ball inside, where they had 40 points compared with Indiana’s 22.
The Gophers had their fourth fewest turnovers of the season with 10, and didn’t turn over the ball at all in the first ten minutes of the game.
According to Statsheet.com, the Gophers have won every game that they’ve recorded at least 17 assists.
More to come tomorrow. But for now, some leftover quotes on the rushing:
Andre Hollins: “It was crazy. It was the hottest I’ve ever felt in my life. I was kind of hyper-ventilating a little bit. It was a great feeling to have such great support from our fans. It was a great game and we needed them tonight.”
“When Trevor was shooting the free throw, he was like ‘Oh, Oh, I think they’re getting ready for us.’ We saw the fans lining up on the baseline of the court and it was just one of those feelings that you’ll never forget.”
Austin Hollins: “It was just one mad rush. I think I got poked in the eye, someone trying to give me a high-five, but it was a lot of fun.”
Rodney Williams: ‘As supportive as they have been, for them to finally be able to rush the court, I think that’s a big moment for us and for everybody else in the community.
“It means a whole lot. Anytime you get the No. 1 team in the house, you want to play your best, you want to get the W. We were able to feed off Trevor’s play early, Andre came on late, and I think that everybody that came in – Elliott came in with some huge, huge minutes and just everybody, from the bench, to the crowd, to the coaching staff, everybody was locked in.
“Once we got up – my little brother and my cousin found me, and I was able to get a hug and kiss from my daughter too, so that was fun.”
Plus, some Tom Crean gold on Trevor Mbakwe:
“He’s a high-level, high-energy, tough guy, that plays the game at a desperate level. Obviously, I’m biased but there’s no shame in that. He’s been in college a long time, and he’s endured a lot. When we were at Marquette we signed him, I didn’t feel we’d have him for more than two, three years tops. And then he got injured that first year and he left and I left and one thing leads to another … That’s a grown man that’s one of the best rebounders in the country and certainly in our league and he was the toughest guy on the court tonight.”
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