Ohio State kept the defensive pressure on Gophers point guard Blake Hoffarber.

Marlin Levison, Dml - Star Tribune

GOPHERS VS. ILLINOIS 8 p.m. Thursday • Williams Arena • TV: ESPN (830-AM)

Injury shouldn't sideline Hoffarber

  • Article by: DENNIS BRACKIN
  • Star Tribune
  • February 8, 2011 - 6:41 AM

Blake Hoffarber's injured left knee shouldn't keep the Gophers senior out of the lineup Thursday against Illinois, coach Tubby Smith said Monday. But Smith was less certain whether the injury would limit Hoffarber's workload, which has increased significantly since point guard Al Nolen suffered a broken foot Jan. 22 at Michigan.

Hoffarber suffered a bruised knee when he fell to the floor early in the second half of Sunday's 82-69 loss to No. 1 Ohio State at Williams Arena. He wore a knee brace when he returned, playing only 13 minutes in the second half.

"He played OK at the end of the game [Sunday], so I'm not sure how much he'll be limited," Smith said during the weekly Big Ten coaches' teleconference. "He's got some time [before the Illinois game], he'll get some treatment and be ready to go."

The Gophers are 1-3 since Nolen's latest injury, including three consecutive losses, and Monday they fell from No. 18 to out of the Associated Press top 25 poll. Hoffarber moved to point guard and averaged 39 minutes the first three games without Nolen, then was limited to 32 minutes Sunday because of the injury. Hoffarber averaged 33.9 minutes in 19 games before Nolen's injury.

Hoffarber is still getting his shots as point guard, averaging 16.0 points the past four games compared to 13.8 points the first 19. But the position switch does have one glaring stat problem: He is averaging 2.5 assists and 3.5 turnovers the past four games after averaging 4.37 assists and 1.6 turnovers in the season's first 19 games when he was primarily the shooting guard.

"He's still getting his shots up, but I think [playing point guard] is wearing him down more," Smith said. "But we've played a lot of zone trying to protect [Hoffarber] and compensate for a lack of quickness at the point guard spot, and a lack of experience [when freshmen Maverick Ahanmisi, Austin Hollins and Chip Armelin are in]. But we've been behind a lot, so we've had to extend [the defense], and defend some pretty talented point guards. So all that's contributed to wearing Blake down a little."

Still, Smith said he is not planning to move Hoffarber back to shooting guard and go with one of the three freshmen at point, although Smith said Hollins has been getting some practice time at point guard. As usual, point guard is central to Smith's preparation against Illinois, which has lost three of its past four games.

"You look at Illinois, and [Demetri] McCamey is an outstanding point guard," Smith said. "With us not having Al Nolen, that's a tough matchup in itself."

Court date moved

Trevor Mbakwe's pretrial hearing Monday on charges that he violated a restraining order was postponed to April 7. The Gophers forward was arrested Jan. 12 after sending a Facebook message to a woman who had a restraining order against him. Mbakwe has pleaded not guilty in the case, which could result in 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

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