This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Mbakwe: Every game "I'm able to do more and more."

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: November 25, 2012 - 8:52 AM

We’ve all been waiting for it: the point when Trevor Mbakwe dominates a game and shows us that he’s still capable of being, well, Mbakwe.

And that came Saturday, in the Gophers’ second-most important game of the year. Mbakwe – who finished with 19 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes -- was huge in pushing Minnesota past Stanford on the final day of play in the Battle 4 Atlantis, and that allowed the Gophers to count the trip a major victory.

“I think every game I can kind of tell a difference, I’m able to do more and more,” he said after. “Obviously I want to rush back to being as aggressive and as explosive as I used to be, but I just have to be smart in the way I play and just take it game by game.”

Said Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins: “He was impressive. I thought he had a presence on the floor. He rebounded well, he scored around the basket. I think he’s going to give them the added dimension they’ve were missing last year.”

That’s certainly what the Gophers are hoping. After losing to Duke in the opening round of the tournament, it became clear that this squad might need more offensive production to hang with truly elite teams.

They got that from Andre Hollins in a big way on Friday, and on Saturday, it was Mbakwe’s turn to go off.

With the Gophers down by four 5.5 minutes in, Mbakwe entered the game and quickly grabbed a tough rebound and hit a jumper. Then, with Minnesota trailing 31-27, the sixth-year senior converted a layup and then after Austin Hollins and Mo Walker combined for 1-for-4 free throw shooting, another to tie the game at 32 going into the half.

In the second, Mbakwe was just as clutch down the stretch, recording eight points in the final five minutes of the game. Mbakwe went 5-for-6 from the line overall.

“That’s just the way I have to play to help this team,” he said. “Make plays on defense and play with energy. I think that’s one of the gotten me to where I am right now in my career and that’s what coach expects of me. I’ve just got to play hard and all times and take advantage of opportunities when I’m out there.”

Getting a game like that from Mbakwe after Rodney Williams had gotten himself into foul trouble was huge. And many Gophers fans are hoping that will help convince coach Tubby Smith to continue to give the big man big minutes – and maybe even get a starting spot. Smith has said he sees “no reason” to insert Mbakwe in the starting lineup considering the chemistry with his current five, but heading into Florida State could be the time to tinker.

“He’s showing a lot of stamina,” Smith said. “Trevor’s got great energy. He always plays with energy and toughness.

“I’ve been impressed with how he’s gotten better. Just the shooting percentages, his free throw shooting, things he’s done extremely well in this tournament. That’s been very helpful, and it’s helped us win these two games.”

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Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 103 FINAL
Houston 105
Golden State 106 FINAL
Boston 101
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
Indiana 94
Portland 110 FINAL
Sacramento 99
Charlotte 98 FINAL
Orlando 83
Oklahoma City 108 4th Qtr 0:07
LA Lakers 101
New Orleans 34 2nd Qtr 1:52
Denver 35
Los Angeles 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Tampa Bay 3 FINAL
Florida 4
Columbus 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Toronto 0 3rd Prd
Washington 2
Anaheim 1 2nd Prd
Dallas 0
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 73 FINAL
Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
Manhattan 69
Fairfield 56 FINAL
Niagara 57
Marist 49 FINAL
Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
Saint Peters 68
Oregon State 56 FINAL
California 73
South Florida 55 FINAL
Houston 72
Marquette 66 FINAL
Providence 77
Michigan State 61 FINAL
Wisconsin 68
Siena 57 FINAL
Monmouth 63
Pittsburgh 66 FINAL
Wake Forest 69
Oregon 68 2nd Half 2:53
Stanford 66
Purdue 44 2nd Half 12:47
Ohio State 35
Arizona State 11 1st Half 13:04
Colorado 10
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 53 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
Richmond 55 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 49
Davidson 46 FINAL
Fordham 54
St Bonaventure 43 FINAL
Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
Saint Peters 47 FINAL
Siena 64
(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
Stony Brook 49 FINAL
Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
William & Mary 62
St Johns 61 FINAL
Xavier 74
James Madison 74 FINAL
Delaware 71
Towson 45 FINAL
Drexel 50
Illinois State 50 FINAL
Bradley 60
Southern Ill 74 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 70
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Wichita State 66
Minnesota 76 FINAL
(17) Iowa 92
(15) North Carolina 80 FINAL
(16) Duke 81
Alabama 73 FINAL
Auburn 80
(9) Florida State 69 FINAL
Miami-Florida 55
Arkansas 41 FINAL
Missouri 57
Georgia 52 FINAL
Florida 45
Dayton 95 FINAL
Saint Louis 68
Drake 57 FINAL
Missouri State 86
Colorado 46 FINAL
(10) Arizona State 59
(19) Stanford 55 FINAL
Oregon 62
Marquette 82 FINAL
DePaul 99
Southern Miss 66 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 60
Vanderbilt 49 FINAL
(6) Tennessee 79
(2) South Carolina 56 FINAL
(13) Kentucky 67
Utah 41 FINAL
Arizona 64
Ohio State 78 FINAL
Nebraska 60

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