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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Pregame: Andre Hollins out again, Maverick Ahanmisi in for Gophers

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: December 22, 2011 - 6:12 PM

Lineup: Maverick Ahanmisi, Julian Welch, Austin Hollins, Rodney Williams, Ralph Sampson III.

 

  • Andre Hollins will miss another start with continued soreness in his ankle.

There’s just one game, now, between the Gophers and the Big Ten schedule; between past success and future questions.

It’s understandably getting harder to keep the game-by-game mentality and not look ahead. But the Gophers – who have been off for over a week -- need to stay focused in tonight’s final non-conference matchup, against North Dakota State, to notch their 12th win and make final key tweaks before heading to Illinois on Tuesday.

“You always want to guard against – I can’t say a letdown -- but we haven’t played in a long time and guys are a little rusty,” coach Tubby Smith said. “You’re coming off exams and hopefully everyone will be in good spirits because they did well academically.

“You don’t want them looking past North Dakota State or looking at what they’re going to get or give for Christmas.”

Three things Smith is looking for tonight:

1.      Keep the turnovers low. During the long layoff, the Gophers did a lot of extra ball-handling work – something Smith said the team doesn’t have the luxury of doing from week to week because of extensive preparation for teams.

2.      Defend the three. This has been a big problem all year. It’s the Gophers’ final chance to experiment before facing high-flying Big Ten opponents.

3.      Health. You never want to go into the conference schedule hurting, and the Gophers have had several nagging injuries to key players. Rest right before the big games makes sense, but at the same time, Smith would probably like to see signs that Andre Hollins and Ralph Sampson III are getting back to normal.

“We’ve got to just come out and play our game that we’ve been playing, just stay focused,” Julian Welch said. “We’ve been having good practices, so we should be fine.”

  • Tonight’s game is not on TV, but you can watch it here (premium content).
  • Listen to tonight’s game live on 1500ESPN or here.
  • Read my preview here.
  • Check out tonight’s matchup here.



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