This is a different year than last year. This year, when Rodney Williams scores just two points in a game (vs. South Dakota State), it’s forgotten about almost instantly.
And when Williams has perhaps the best night of his season one game later, it’s not a sigh or relief or even much of a storyline.
Rodney Williams has become the picture of consistency and leadership for the Gophers – so much so that we’ve come to expect it, and Williams himself gets caught off-guard at his own achievements.
Against USC tonight, Williams finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds, his first double-double of the year. Afterward, he didn’t even realize it.
“Oh -- I didn’t even know I had a double-double,” he said, reacting to the question. “Finally!”
But while Williams feins great impatience for the stat, he’s in fact looking and acting and playing more comfortable than ever.
And that has been a big part of why the Gophers – moving to 10-1 on Saturday – have been so successful so far.
Other notes on tonight’s game:
• Who got to watch this matchup tonight? I know a lot of people were struggling with the almost non-existent TV availability, so I tried to tweet a little more than normal during the game.
• Tubby Smith got win No. 500 tonight. He’s the 19th active coach to do so.
• The Gophers had four players finish in double digits (Williams, Andre Hollins, 14; Trevor Mbakwe, 12 and Joe Coleman; 10) and three more with six or more, looking like the balanced offense they’ve been all year.
• The Gophers had plenty of challenges inside, going up against 7-2 center Omar Oraby, who didn’t score in the first half but really paced USC in the second with 15. Mbakwe got knocked down a couple of times, but battled well. “That was definitely a struggle for us,” Williams said. “You saw the big man get going a little bit in the second half, but we’ll probably face teams like that later on in the season, so that’s good for us to go in and get beat up a little bit by some 7-footers … it’s good to get the practice in.”
• Mo Walker didn’t play all game – Smith said afterward it was just a matchup issue and “that’s going to happen sometimes.” Walker played just seven minutes against South Dakota State.
• Mbakwe said at this point he feels like he is 100 percent. His knee gets “stiff” after practice sometimes, but not sore, he said. He said his doctors have told him he should be able to take off his brace within the next month.
• The Gophers hit five three pointers in the first half, but slowed the effort in the second, making just one.
• Once again, the zone slowed up the Gophers considerably. They started to break through it some in the second half, but it’s still clearly an area that needs work. “That’s one thing we have to know how to attack the gaps – that’s a big thing,” Andre Hollins said. “Just attacking the gaps and making them play us. We were playing on the outside of them and not being aggressive.”
• After tonight, the Gophers play again on Tuesday, and then are off for an 11-day break.