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

Break beneficial for players needing individual work, Smith says

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: December 17, 2012 - 7:08 PM

 Playing one game in 19 days can be looked at two ways: as much needed rest and opportunities for tinkering – or as a chance for a hot, 11-1 team to cool down.

But for this team, I think the break is welcomed: both as a chance to renew themselves and as an opportunity to get more specific in their practices.

Gophers coach Tubby Smith said that during the off-time so far, the team has been mostly working on basic fundamentals and going over offensive plays and defensive schemes. But the staff has been able to work more thoroughly with individual players as well on things that each need help with.

“We’ve played 12 games already, so it was always game preparation and not a whole lot of drill work,” Smith said. “So we’ve spent some time in the last couple days working on individual fundamentals for each player.”

Smith noted in particular that the break so far has been beneficial for Mo Walker – who has only played 16 minutes in the last three games and has struggled to keep up with the up-tempo squad – and freshman Wally Ellenson, who played for the first time a week ago against North Dakota State after having his redshirt pulled.

“He’s been looking good in practice and doing some things,” Smith said. “He didn’t really get any practices in hardly up until he got his cast off and his hand healed. Now he’s playing better.”

Other notes from today’s media access:

  • Ellenson looked nervous – and rightfully so – in his first appearance last Tuesday, but that initial outing was good for him, Smith said. “He’s learning to play,” he said. “He missed all that time so he’s still trying to grasp offense and our defense. He knows it pretty well but he’s just kind of a natural, he’s just a very gifted athlete and he’ll continue to get his strength and get his wind and that just takes getting on the court and getting minutes. But he probably does have a bounce in his step. His legs are alive and he’s playing extremely well in practice.”
  • Austin Hollins pulled a muscle in his groin against USC on Dec. 7th and Smith said the guard has been limited in practices. Hollins downplayed the injury, saying he fine. “He’s a tough kid,” Smith said.
  • Trevor Mbakwe said he hopes to get his brace taken off in the next few week, and that he and the team will be experimenting with how much he can play without it in the meantime. “We’re going to start taking it day by day – some practices going without it and just taking small steps of not playing with it,” he said. “I’m excited to get it over with. I know a lot of people are always concerned when I’m reaching on it and pulling it back during games.”
  • Asked how badly he wanted to start considering his competitive personality, Mbakwe paused a beat, but responded: “I don’t know about starting, I just want the minutes. I’m happy with where I’m at. It’s not something – I don’t care much about starting. Coach always says you want to be the guy that’s in the last five minutes of the game, that’s who you trust and I’d rather be in the last five minutes of the game rather than starting the first five and being that second wave type of guy. That’s more my goal.

 

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Chicago 52
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Houston 31
Milwaukee 9:00 PM
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Golden State
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Philadelphia 1
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Pittsburgh 0
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Columbus 3
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Montreal 0
St. Louis 9:30 PM
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Rice 72
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Canisius 60
Temple 82 FINAL
Delaware 62
FIU 58 FINAL
Long Island 69
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Quinnipiac 80
South Alabama 54 FINAL
Richmond 65
Seton Hall 89 FINAL
South Florida 69
Ga Southern 76 FINAL
Stetson 67
Yale 57 FINAL
Vermont 56
Cleveland State 54 FINAL
Virginia 70
Wright State 69 FINAL
Western Carolina 56
Nicholls 54 2nd Half 1:17
Louisiana Tech 76
Morgan State 42 2nd Half 4:22
Rider 55
Idaho State 60 1st OT
South Dakota St 60
Oakland City 30 2nd Half 14:05
Austin Peay 49
Eureka 29 2nd Half 15:09
Bradley 53
Appalachian St 41 2nd Half 14:30
Charlotte 43
Connecticut 30 2nd Half 18:16
Duke 30
Southern Miss 17 2nd Half 19:22
Jackson State 40
Coastal Carolina 51 2nd Half 13:26
Ole Miss 40
Montana State 26 1st Half 2:25
South Dakota 25
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UAB 19
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UMBC 55 FINAL
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UCLA 67
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South Dakota 115
William & Mary 71 FINAL
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Troy 82 FINAL
Evansville 94
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USC 96
St Francis-PA 52 FINAL
Duquesne 92
Indiana-Southeast 45 FINAL
IUPUI 95
Delaware State 52 FINAL
Detroit 74
Tenn Temple 48 FINAL
Gardner-Webb 68
West Virginia St 58 FINAL
Radford 52
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New Hampshire 60
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Jacksonville 61 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
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South Dakota St 44
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