Gophers' balance gives foes multiple challenges

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 11, 2013 - 6:40 AM

Joe Coleman, who scored 29 against Illinois, is the latest to step to the fore.

hide

Minnesota guard Joe Coleman

Photo: Andy King, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- It's hard to believe that a player who finished with a game-high 29 points Wednesday night against Illinois could be the most undervalued member of the Gophers' starting lineup -- but then, that's Minnesota this year.

Joe Coleman has substantially improved from a season ago, scoring 10.9 points per game as a sophomore after averaging 5.8 as a freshman. That his accomplishments have been overshadowed is an indication of just how balanced and productive the starting five has been this season.

But just as each starter has had breakout games, Wednesday in Champaign once again was a reminder of just how critical Coleman is to the fabric of this up-tempo team as it takes a 15-1 record and No. 8 national ranking into its showdown at No. 5 Indiana on Saturday.

"It's really important," Coleman said of the Gophers' ability to push the pace and score on the fast break. "Coach [Tubby Smith] has been harping on, we've got to get out and run and that's our best game. I don't think he thought we did too well with that against Northwestern, so we were able to focus in on that [against Illinois]."

That's for certain. Against a team that thrives on the run, the Gophers were able to establish that as their identity while holding Illinois without a single fast-break point.

And Coleman -- one of the Gophers' best tools in transition -- was in fine form. The former Hopkins standout scored 24 of his 29 points in a second half that saw the Gophers nearly lose their 12-point lead and then build it all the way back on the legs of Coleman, who created a one-man highlight reel. He had a series of dunks and other scores around the basket, got to the line and battled with the physical Illini.

"It was a physical game and Joe's a physical guy, he's absorbs the contact," point guard Andre Hollins said. "This was one of his games."

In the Illinois victory, Coleman was the spark that represented a characteristic that has personified the Gophers this season: an ability to respond to momentum changes.

Against Memphis, Michigan State and Illinois, the Gophers have watched their opponent come back from a large deficit and make what might have been a devastating run a year ago. But instead of panicking, Minnesota has, in each of those circumstances, responded with grit and aggressiveness, making a strong comeback of its own.

On Wednesday, the Gophers got off track and watched a 42-30 lead shrink to 44-42 during a three-minute second-half stretch when Minnesota went 0-for-4 with two turnovers and two fouls. But the Gophers got a steal from Austin Hollins, who fed Coleman for a dunk. Those were two of his nine points during a 19-7 run that got Minnesota back on track.

"That's been the difference for our team this year," senior Trevor Mbakwe said. "The last couple years I've been here, when teams make a run, that's kind of it for us. But we were able to have that extra punch at the end."

For the Gophers, that blow was delivered by Coleman this time, an opportunity presented because Minnesota's balance won't allow defenses to concentrate on any one threat.

"It just makes us more of a tough team," Coleman said. "It's hard to focus in on one player if you've got a lot of guys that can pull it off any night."

 Note: Andre Hollins was named a Bob Cousy Award finalist, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame announced. The award is given annually to the nation's top men's basketball point guard. Hollins is one of 20 finalists.

  • NO. 8 GOPHERS AT NO. 5 INDIANA

    11 a.m. Saturday • TV: BTN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tennessee 13 FINAL
Jacksonville 21
Philadelphia 12/20/14 3:30 PM
Washington
San Diego 12/20/14 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Oakland
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Arizona
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Cincinnati
Utah 6:00 PM
Orlando
Charlotte 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
Brooklyn 6:30 PM
Cleveland
Washington 6:30 PM
Miami
Minnesota 6:30 PM
Boston
Toronto 6:30 PM
Detroit
Chicago 7:00 PM
Memphis
Portland 7:00 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Denver
Oklahoma City 9:30 PM
LA Lakers
Tampa Bay 6:00 PM
New Jersey
Anaheim 6:30 PM
Ottawa
NY Islanders 6:30 PM
Detroit
Boston 7:00 PM
Winnipeg
Dallas 8:00 PM
Calgary
Wilberforce 12:30 PM
Youngstown St
Jackson State 1:00 PM
Tulane
Siena 5:00 PM
Radford
Stillman 6:00 PM
Alabama
Case Western Reserve 6:00 PM
Bucknell
Niagara 6:00 PM
Buffalo
SD Christian 6:00 PM
UC Santa Barbara
Concordia (MI) 6:00 PM
Central Mich
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Dartmouth
North Florida 6:00 PM
Florida A&M
Hiwassee 6:00 PM
Gardner-Webb
Tennessee St 6:00 PM
Hampton
NC A&T 6:00 PM
Kent State
Central Penn College 6:00 PM
Liberty
Bethune-Cookman 6:00 PM
Mercer
Eastern Ky 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Morehead State
Northern Ariz 6:00 PM
Norfolk State
MD-Eastern Shore 6:00 PM
Old Dominion
St Marys-CA 6:00 PM
St Johns
Clemson 6:00 PM
South Carolina
Tenn Tech 6:00 PM
Tennessee
Washington-MD 6:00 PM
William & Mary
Furman 6:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
South Dakota St 6:30 PM
CS-Bakersfield
Milligan 7:00 PM
Lamar
LSU-Alexandria 7:00 PM
ULM
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Chattanooga 7:00 PM
Middle Tennessee
Seattle 7:00 PM
Minnesota
Lipscomb 7:00 PM
Princeton
Winthrop 7:00 PM
SE Louisiana
Dickinson State 7:00 PM
North Dakota
New Orleans 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
TX-Pan American 8:00 PM
Creighton
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Denver
Alabama A&M 8:00 PM
Marquette
Ark-Pine Bluff 8:00 PM
Texas Tech
Eastern Wash 9:00 PM
California
Idaho State 9:05 PM
Utah State
Arizona 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 10:59 PM
Chaminade
Nevada 12/20/14 10:00 AM
Louisiana
Utah State 12/20/14 1:20 PM
Texas-El Paso
(23) Utah 12/20/14 2:30 PM
Colorado State
Western Mich 12/20/14 4:45 PM
Air Force
South Alabama 12/20/14 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Memphis
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Rice
Ohio Valley 29 2nd Half 7:42
Youngstown St 77
East Tenn St 28 2nd Half
UNC-Wilmington 31
Louisiana 11:00 AM
Alcorn State
Cal-Irvine 16 1st Half 7:48
Purdue 21
Campbell 12:00 PM
Stetson
Jacksonville St 1:00 PM
Charleston Southern
Denver 1:30 PM
Wright State
Texas State 2:00 PM
Bethune-Cookman
Blue Mountain 2:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Albany 3:00 PM
Pepperdine
TX-San Antonio 3:00 PM
Houston
Yale 3:30 PM
Bucknell
Northern Colorado 3:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
Belmont 4:00 PM
Mercer
Massachusetts 4:00 PM
Georgia State
George Mason 4:05 PM
Winthrop
Portland State 4:30 PM
Princeton
UCLA 5:00 PM
Samford
Mobile 5:00 PM
Alabama State
Nicholls 5:30 PM
Texas Tech
Toledo 5:30 PM
Nevada
UMass Lowell 5:30 PM
(13) Duke
St Marys-CA 6:00 PM
Virginia
McNeese State 6:00 PM
Rice
McMurry 6:00 PM
Houston Baptist
NJIT 6:00 PM
Seton Hall
(6) North Carolina 6:00 PM
Maine
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Siena 6:00 PM
Binghamton
Longwood 6:00 PM
Clemson
Savannah State 6:00 PM
Florida State
(19) Syracuse 6:00 PM
(9) Baylor
Buffalo 6:00 PM
Manhattan
Ohio U 6:00 PM
La Salle
Canisius 6:00 PM
Michigan
Davidson 6:00 PM
NC State
Northern Ky 6:00 PM
Delaware
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Austin Peay
(25) DePaul 6:30 PM
(2) Connecticut
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
Tulane
Miss Valley St 7:00 PM
Memphis
Ark-Pine Bluff 7:00 PM
UAB
Bowling Green 7:05 PM
Illinois State
Arkansas State 7:05 PM
Missouri State
ULM 7:05 PM
Wichita State
(16) Oregon State 8:00 PM
Southern Ill
Utah Valley U 8:30 PM
Montana
Pacific 9:00 PM
New Mexico St
No Dakota State 9:00 PM
Cal State Fullerton
Utah State 9:00 PM
Sacramento St
Bethesda (CA) 9:00 PM
Fresno State
LSU 9:30 PM
UC Santa Barbara

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Christian Ponder ever be a full-time starter in the NFL?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close