Hartman: Smith says win vs. Wisconsin gives Gophers big boost

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 17, 2013 - 10:38 AM
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Screenshot from video posted to YouTube of Tubby Smith dancing after men's victory over Wisconsin, Feb. 14, 2013.

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In describing the importance of the Gophers' victory over Wisconsin on Thursday, coach Tubby Smith said: "I don't think the season was in that dire straits to start with, but since you mentioned it, I think it will be a big boost to us. We're 17-7; we're not a dog by any means.

"We were under .500 [in the Big Ten at 5-6] so we're back to .500. The sky was falling out here. Sometimes when the sky is falling you know you get under a ceiling and you think it's going to cave in on you. [Wisconsin] wanted it, but we had to have it. I thought that was the key [Thursday]."

A victory over Iowa on Sunday would put the Gophers in a real good position to improve their NCAA seeding.

While the public expected more of this Gophers team, Smith felt they are playing with some handicaps and that the Gophers have some players who work extremely had to overcome some things.

"We've got some players who have overachieved," Smith said. "Trevor Mbakwe is playing center at 6-7, 6-8, just coming off knee surgery. You can't find a guy with a bigger heart, that plays that tough.

"Rodney Williams is matched up against bigger guys every game, he's 6-6, 6-7, he's light in the pants [lacks the weight to play inside], but he does everything he can."

Smith pointed out that Wisconsin probably was bigger than the Gophers at every position.

"But that's what we have to do, and we have to play a certain way," Smith said. "I think we're getting a lot out of our guys. We've lost some close games. But you don't get a mulligan in basketball. I'd like to have a do-over, but we don't."

Furthermore, Smith said he feels the team can build on the victory over the Badgers.

"[The Big Ten Conference] is tough, the best league in basketball," he said. "We know for us to compete we have to execute to perfection sometimes in order to win. We haven't done that in our losses. [Thursday] we executed and found a way to win."

Now let's see if the Gophers can repeat that performance against Wisconsin when they play in Iowa City on Sunday, where they are 1 1/2-point favorites.

Peterson was hurting

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier was asked what the real story was regarding Adrian Peterson needing surgery for a sports hernia following the season.

"It was bothering him for a while late in the season, and it seems like it was getting worse," said Frazier about the problem, which was kept quiet. "We ended up having different people looking at him and examining him. We wanted to make sure that we weren't putting him at jeopardy long-term. But even though it was nagging him he found a way to rush for 200 yards, 150 yards, it was just amazing.

"You'll recall that there were weeks where he only practiced one day, and that was Friday. Friday for us is a light day, and the reason he wasn't able to practice was because of that sports hernia, and then he'd go out on Sunday and put up astronomical numbers. It was incredible to watch."

Despite the injury, Peterson finished with 2,097 yards, just 9 short of Eric Dickerson's NFL record. Ridnour on block?

USA Today sports reporter Alex Kennedy said on Tuesday that the New York Knicks are interested in trading for Wolves guard Luke Ridnour. The Knicks have two point guards in Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd, and Kidd has been playing shooting guard much of the season, so Ridnour could help give those players more rest as they head into the playoffs.

Speaking of Wolves trades, it was interesting to think about what the team got in return for Al Jefferson when it traded him to the Utah Jazz. It resulted in the team getting center Kosta Koufos and two future first-round picks. The Wolves then traded Koufos to the Nuggets as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal while getting an unprotected second-round draft pick from Denver in 2015.

Kofous has produced for Denver this season, averaging 8.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 22.9 minutes per game. The Wolves used one of the Jazz draft picks last year, No. 18 overall, in their trade with Houston for Chase Budinger, who has missed the bulk of this season because of a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee.

Carter has a shot

NFL scouts say that Gophers defensive back Michael Carter, even though he wasn't invited to the NFL combine, will get some good looks at the Gophers Pro Day and might be drafted.

Carter's cousin Tyrone Carter was another former Gopher. He played for 11 seasons in the pros, mainly with the Vikings and Steelers.

JOTTINGS

• Joe Lunardi, who does NCAA tournament predictions for ESPN, has a system in place called the S-Curve, which ranks the teams he predicts will make the tournament. Going into this weekend's games Lunardi had the Gophers firmly in the tournament field with little to no chance of falling off, as they are ranked 24th in the country. According to Lunardi, they have more than an 80 percent chance of making the tourney.

• Tubby Smith and the Gophers made the rounds on the Internet this week with a fun video of him dancing after their big overtime victory against Wisconsin. The team joined in dancing to a song by pop star Ke$ha, and at one point Trevor Mbakwe picked up his coach over his shoulder and carried him.

• An Indiana booster corrects us that former Hoosiers coach Bob Knight has three, not two, former players as coaches in the NBA in Mike Woodson with the Knicks, Randy Wittman with the Wizards and Keith Smart with the Sacramento Kings. A fourth former Indiana player who coached was Isiah Thomas, who was fired by the Knicks after coaching them for two years.

• Pedro Florimon, who has a chance to be the Twins' starting shortstop, played in the Dominican winter league with Leones del Escogido and hit .260 with three RBI and 12 runs in 38 games.

• The Florida Panthers hold the draft rights to several players with Minnesota ties. There's the Gophers' Kyle Rau (91st selection in 2011 draft) and Nick Bjugstad (19th in 2010). They also have the rights to Eddie Wittchow (154th in 2011), a former Burnsville standout now with the Wisconsin Badgers, and Joe Basaraba (69th in 2010), who played at Shattuck St. Mary's and is now at Minnesota Duluth. The Panthers also hold the rights to Corban Knight (135th in 2009), the University of North Dakota's leading scorer.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. •shartman@startribune.com

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  • JOTTINGS

    Sunday February 17, 2013

    • Joe Lunardi, who does NCAA tournament predictions for ESPN, has a system in place called the S-Curve, which ranks the teams he predicts will make the tournament. Going into...

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