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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Elliott Eliason and Malik Smith expected to play vs. South Dakota State

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: December 9, 2013 - 11:50 AM

Center Elliott Eliason and guard Malik Smith are both expected to play on Tuesday against South Dakota State, Gophers coach Richard Pitino said on Monday morning's conference call with the media.

Both players practiced on Sunday after injuring their left ankles previously -- Eliason on Thursday and Smith on Friday -- sprains that limited them in Saturday's game against New Orleans. Smith, whom Pitino had said could barely walk that morning, didn't play at all, while Eliason played just four minutes in the first half before hobbling off.

After the game, Pitino was optimistic for Eliason's immediate return, but sounded much more reserved about Smith's status, calling his injury "worse." After practice, however, Pitino felt each had taken a notable step.

"They both seemed fine so we expect them both to play tomorrow," Pitino said. "Elliott was moving well. Malik was hobbling a little bit but once he got loose, he looked much better."

Whether Eliason immediately takes back his starting spot from Mo Walker -- who filled in with 11 points and eight rebounds on Saturday -- is a different story.

"I'm not really sure, to be honest with you," Pitino said. "I haven't made my decision yet, we're going to think about it."

Saturday was Walker's first career start, and he continued to show improvement after returning from a six-game suspension in the Gophers' second game of the Maui Invitational, against Arkansas. On Saturday, Walker played just 23 minutes after picking up his fourth foul early in the second half.

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