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.

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In its current competition, Gophers will need more bench production going forward

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: January 15, 2013 - 11:46 AM

One of the most-used descriptors of the Gophers is that they are “deep.” Among those who have sung their praises this season, that is, almost invariably, an adjective that makes the list.

But there is a certain difference between depth and playing 10 guys – by the former definition, the Gophers have been deep ever since coach Tubby Smith took the reins in 2007.

Let me be clear: I believe this bunch of reserves from this particular Gophers team is greatly improved from a season ago, some in ways I truly never expected. Maverick Ahanmisi, while not without his limitations, has become a backup to trust. He’s become a needed spark off the bench when Andre Hollins is in foul trouble or simply just tired. A player like Andre Ingram has grown substantially when it comes to both his toughness and his understanding of the game. Much of that is probably a product of Smith’s system – had these guys not played significant minutes from the start, they likely wouldn’t have progressed as they have.

At the same time, four games into the conference season, the bench’s value has been stunted somewhat. Against Michigan State, Smith played a shortened bench in the second half, and rightfully so – considering how the team was fighting to stay in the game, and the reserves had proven unmatched against the Spartans’ starting five. But against Illinois and Indiana, the bench’s production has fallen off dramatically. Saturday against the Hoosiers, only Ahanmisi (six points) and Ingram (two points) put points on the board from the bench, and at Illinois, no reserve scored at all.

“You’re going to produce less with less minutes,” Smith said. “Look at [Saturday’s] game … a very hotly contested game, so I’m going to keep my best players and my best scorers in the game as long as I can, and that’s just the way it is.”

Certainly, Smith has been playing his reserves less than usual (although let’s be honest, that simply hasn’t always been “just the way it is”). But the dropoff in minutes shouldn’t create such a DRAMATIC dropoff in offensive production.

“We know we need our bench and obviously it doesn’t always [tell the story] by the scoring – sometimes it’s playing defense, taking care of the ball, stuff like that,” Trevor Mbakwe said. “Our bench depth doesn’t always depend on scoring. There’s a lot of things our bench can bring to us, like energy, defense.”

OK – sure. But against a high-octane, super-efficient team like Indiana -- and with five reserves in all at once – yes, they do need to score. The Gophers’ cannot endure five minutes of holding their breath and hoping that the opponent doesn’t go on too much of a run.

Smith has stated that he now trusts his starters to play longer stretches (even if they do look exhausted at times) because they are more conditioned than they were at the start of the season, and frankly, they’re more needed, which is all fine and good.

But used in the capacity that Smith does – for however many minutes that is – the bench needs to produce.

“We didn’t get the production out of Oto [Osenieks] that I’d hoped or Julian [Welch] [in the Indiana game], but they played 6,7,10 minutes,” Smith said. “I think Andre Ingram gave us good minutes.

“I don’t know how many more minutes we can --,” Smith started, “You know, they can get more minute when they’re – well, I thought one of the things that happened to us was we got quality rest for our starters, and that was a big key for getting us back in the game.”

Against Indiana, the bench did play a role in helping the Gophers off to one of their first significant runs on their way back to making the game competitive. Ingram made a jumper. Ahnamisi hit a 3-pointer. And with that the Gophers had completed a 10-3 run. But the concern is the long, scoreless stretches as the opponent makes a run of their own. That simply will not fly going forward.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Detroit 6:00 PM
Portland 6:00 PM
Sacramento 6:30 PM
Boston 7:00 PM
Dallas 7:00 PM
Denver 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Brooklyn 7:00 PM
Oklahoma City 7:00 PM
New York
Charlotte 7:30 PM
San Antonio
LA Clippers 8:00 PM
Washington 9:30 PM
Toronto 6:30 PM
New Jersey
Pittsburgh 7:00 PM
Chicago 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Temple 6:00 PM
Winthrop 6:00 PM
Coastal Carolina
Lafayette 6:00 PM
Northeastern 6:00 PM
Wake Forest 6:00 PM
Florida State
Rhode Island 6:00 PM
Delaware 6:00 PM
James Madison
South Carolina 6:00 PM
New Hampshire 6:00 PM
Seton Hall 6:00 PM
Binghamton 6:00 PM
American Univ 6:00 PM
Elon 6:00 PM
Wright State 6:00 PM
Minnesota 6:00 PM
Penn State
Duquesne 6:00 PM
SMU 6:00 PM
South Florida
Hartford 6:00 PM
Stony Brook
Albany 6:00 PM
Hofstra 6:00 PM
William & Mary
UNC-Asheville 6:00 PM
Radford 6:30 PM
Char Southern
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 6:30 PM
Notre Dame
Texas Tech 6:30 PM
Oregon State 7:00 PM
Arizona State
Morehead State 7:00 PM
Austin Peay
Drake 7:00 PM
Lehigh 7:00 PM
Rice 7:00 PM
Missouri State 7:00 PM
Illinois State
Loyola-Chicago 7:00 PM
Wichita State
Nebraska Omaha 7:00 PM
South Dakota St
Northern Iowa 7:05 PM
Southern Ill
Louisville 8:00 PM
Boston College
St Johns 8:00 PM
East Carolina 8:00 PM
Georgia Tech 8:00 PM
Miss State 8:00 PM
Ole Miss
Clemson 8:00 PM
NC State
Indiana 8:00 PM
Kansas 8:00 PM
Oregon 9:00 PM
Air Force 9:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 10:00 PM
Rider 26 2nd Half
Siena 23
Dayton 11:00 AM
Eastern Kentucky 11:30 AM
Jacksonville St
Saint Josephs 11:30 AM
Saint Louis
UMBC 6:00 PM
Akron 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
Memphis 6:00 PM
East Carolina 6:00 PM
(2) Connecticut
Murray State 6:00 PM
Eastern Illinois
Kent State 6:00 PM
Central Michigan
UT Martin 6:00 PM
Tennessee St
Eastern Michigan 6:00 PM
Western Mich
Bucknell 6:00 PM
Indiana 6:00 PM
Michigan State
Colgate 6:00 PM
Fordham 6:00 PM
Duquesne 6:00 PM
St Bonaventure
George Mason 6:00 PM
VA Commonwealth
Detroit 6:00 PM
Youngstown St
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
SMU 7:00 PM
Oklahoma St 7:00 PM
Kansas State
West Virginia 7:00 PM
Texas Tech
Denver 7:00 PM
South Dakota
Northwestern St 7:00 PM
Central Arkansas
Austin Peay 7:00 PM
Kansas 7:00 PM
Iowa State
Bowling Green 7:00 PM
Northern Ill
Penn State 7:00 PM
San Jose St 8:00 PM
Air Force
Boise State 8:00 PM
Colorado State
Utah State 8:00 PM
San Diego State 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Nevada 9:00 PM


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