Gophers' seniors shine in Barn finale

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 3, 2013 - 6:12 AM

With Trevor Mbakwe again leading the way, the Gophers simply overwhelmed Penn State.

view larger photos

  

The suspense over the Gophers' ability to respond after a big victory was long gone when the student section again took to serenading the one who has directed this two-game change in fates.

"One. More. Year," fans chanted teasingly at their big man who has already had so many of them.

But although he has been at a senior day before, Saturday was truly the last one for Trevor Mbakwe, who didn't let his final appearance at Williams Arena go to waste.

The sixth-year senior racked up 13 points and 13 rebounds, his intensity lighting the way as the Gophers ran over startled Penn State 73-44 in a game coach Tubby Smith had worried would feature an emotional letdown.

"You have a big win like that, you don't want to come back and have an emotional letup on a team that you feel like you should [beat]," Mbakwe said. "We want to turn the season for the better this time."

Instead, the squad that came out flat was the Nittany Lions, who just one day after the Gophers beat No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday had authored perhaps an even bigger upset, beating No. 4 Michigan at home Wednesday to end an 18-game Big Ten losing streak.

The remnants of that game, however, were long gone Saturday, as the Gophers (20-9, 8-8 Big Ten) held Penn State scoreless for the first 11 minutes, 28 seconds and jumped out to a 16-0 lead. The Nittany Lions had come in hot from three-point range, but against the Gophers' suffocating defense, they hit only 21.4 percent of their shots from long range and only 27.1 percent from the floor overall.

With Penn State (9-19, 1-15) struggling all around, Smith was able to keep his senior lineup -- featuring Mbakwe, Rodney Williams (10 points, seven rebounds), Andre Ingram (four points, three rebounds) and Julian Welch (10 points, seven assists) -- in for the first seven minutes without making any switches, and for the majority of the second half, taking out each individually to a standing ovation.

"I think they have kind of united as one, sort of an us-against-the-world type thing," Smith said. "It's a group, that I've said before, I enjoy."

The Gophers didn't lose any steam to the lack of competition, making 50 percent of their own shots, overwhelming Penn State on the boards 46-30 and limiting their turnovers to 10 for the second game in a row. Welch got the team started early with five points in the first two minutes. Ingram had one of his best outings of the season. Mbakwe ignited the team with his aggressiveness. And Williams, being Williams, treated the Barn to one last highlight dunk, snatching an off-target lob out of the air and smacking it lefthanded through the hoop.

"These are two of our better games," Williams said. "For us to catch fire like we have in these last two games, I think this is a real good time for us to do it, going into the tournaments."

By the final minutes, it was a group that simply looked to be having fun out on the court. Mbakwe even attempted a three-pointer (it didn't fall), something his teammates have been goading him to try.

And when fans hit him with one final chant asking him to return, he couldn't help but laugh.

"I guess I'd have to sprain an ankle or something to get another year by the NCAA," Mbakwe said. "It seemed like forever, but it went by so fast and there were a lot of emotions ... I'm going to remember that for a long time."

  • GOPHERS 73, PENN STATE 44

    Up next: 8 p.m. Wednesday at

    Nebraska • TV: BTN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 96 4th Qtr 0:07
LA Clippers 99
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How optimistic are you about the 2015 Twins?

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