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

Gophers starting group is efficient in Illinois loss, but used together for less than half the game

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: February 11, 2013 - 6:48 PM

Rodney Williams update: Smith said on Monday morning’s teleconference that Williams (who didn’t play on Sunday) would receive treatment for his tweaked left shoulder and will practice tomorrow. Williams said last night that he would “definitely” play in Thursday’s game against Wisconsin.

Also: Gophers drop out of the AP poll after 11 consecutive weeks. The story. 

At first glance, a team that used 10 different lineup combinations in the first half of a game would appear to be a squad still searching for its identity.

Maybe that’s true of these Gophers, or maybe its part of the reason they haven’t been able to find one yet.

Minnesota’s starters, when all five were on the court together in the Gophers’ loss against Illinois at Williams Arena on Sunday, outscored the Illini by 12 points. But that group was used together for less than half of the game. The remaining of sub combinations were altogether outscored by Illinois by 16 points.

Gophers coach Tubby Smith said today on the Big Ten teleconference that the reason for all the switches is two-fold. At times, he thinks his starters simply look like they need a break, he said. And at the same time, Smith wants to take advantage of the balance he considers a strength.

“No one is really that much better,” Smith said. “Trevor’s a pretty talented player, but we can create play out of Elliott. Mo Walker’s coming around and … those guys are making good plays, and sometimes the starters are not making good plays and they’re not shooting the ball well. If we struggle shooting the ball like Andre (Hollins) did yesterday, then we try to find someone that can give us a spark or give us some more offensive play. And Julian (Welch) gave us some while Joe Coleman was struggling. It’s not always take them out because sometimes they’re struggling. You’ve got to have some production, you’ve got to get some energy. And I thought we got that from our bench yesterday, I was very, very pleased with their play.”

Smith used 13 different combinations on the floor Sunday, ultimately only using just one (the starters group) more than once.

When the starting group was in (a total of 19:32), their contributions were overall quite positive, up until the stretch they played together for the final 2:38, when they were down by one and gave up a 3-pointer to lose by 4. Otherwise, only three of the remaining 12 groups made a positive impact on the game (a total of plus-nine from the other positive combinations).

Smith made his first switch just under five minutes into the game, bringing in Oto Osenieks and Andre Ingram to replace Joe Coleman and Trevor Mbakwe. At that time, the starting group had put the Gophers ahead 8-0.

“We felt like they needed a breather that time and you could tell by the way they were running – not getting up and down the court, the way they were breathing,” Smith said. “A lot of things come into play. … We see a drop-off when you watch film later on, you see guys not being as aggressive and you see that they’re not in sync. Maybe that’s why they’re not in sync because they’re not playing as many minutes. But I’d like to think – you know, we have, I think, a lot of balance.”

The bench did, as Smith suggested, do some decent things for the team last night, aside from their five turnovers. With Coleman struggling, Julian Welch stepped in and scored five points. The reserves, as a whole, scored more than they have in two games.

And certainly, the starters were the cause for some mishaps on groups in which they were paired with reserves. But it can be argued that the starters, as the most talented players on the team, are not getting enough time on the court. That could impact the rhythm of not just that group, but the others that filter in as well.

All the groups that Smith used Sunday:

Trevor Mbakwe
Elliott Eliason
Austin Hollins
Joe Coleman
Andre Hollins

Used four times:
[20:00-15:12 in the first half] +8
[9:06-4:31 in the first half] +3
[20:00-12:29 in the second half] +4
[2:38-end of game] -3

Elliott Eliason
Austin Hollins
Andre Hollins
Oto Osenieks
Andre Ingram

Used once:
[15:12-13:45 in the first half] -2

Andre Hollins
Oto Osenieks
Andre Ingram
Julian Welch
Mo Walker

Used once:
[13:45-12:37 in the first half] +3

Maverick Ahanmisi
Oto Osenieks
Andre Ingram
Julian Welch
Mo Walker

Used once:
[12:37-11:23 in the first half] no change

Trevor Mbakwe
Maverick Ahanmisi
Oto Osenieks
Julian Welch
Mo Walker

Used once:
[11:23-10:57 in the first half] no change

Trevor Mbakwe
Austin Hollins
Andre Hollins
Joe Coleman
Mo Walker

Used once:
[10:57-9:06 in the first half] no change

Mo Walker
Andre Hollins
Joe Coleman
Austin Hollins
Andre Ingram

Used once:
[4:31-2:46 in the first half] -10

Trevor Mbakwe
Julian Welch
Andre Hollins
Austin Hollins
Andre Ingram

Used once:
[2:46-2:06 in the first half] +2

Trevor Mbakwe
Andre Hollins
Austin Hollins
Andre Ingram
Oto Osenieks

Used once:
[2:06-:46 in the first half] -3

Trevor Mbakwe
Andre Hollins
Austin Hollins
Andre Ingram
Joe Coleman

Used once:
[:46-end of half] -2

Maverick Ahanmisi
Austin Hollins
Joe Coleman
Trevor Mbakwe
Elliott Eliason

Used once:
[12:29-10:11 in the second half] -8

Maverick Ahanmisi
Andre Hollins
Andre Ingram
Julian Welch
Mo Walker

Used once:
[10:11-6:49 in the second half] +4

Julian Welch
Andre Hollins
Austin Hollins
Trevor Mbakwe
Elliott Eliason

Used once:
[6:49-2:38 in the second half] no change



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