Least of the Big East gives Gophers tournament scare

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2011 - 11:25 AM

DePaul led by 12 before Rodney Williams helped fuel a comeback.

Junior forward Rodney Williams

ORLANDO - It was the kind of all-around performance -- and big-time play -- Gophers fans have grown accustomed to seeing from Trevor Mbakwe.

But for Rodney Williams? It was the kind of performance everyone associated with the Gophers has been waiting to see -- and wanting to see often.

The Gophers men's basketball team needed every bit of what both had to offer to squeeze out an 86-85 victory over DePaul on Thursday in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic.

Mbakwe, playing with four fouls, took a key charge in the final minute with the Gophers clinging to a one-point lead. And after two missed free throws by Julian Welch, Williams delivered a clutch putback layup for the final two of his career-high 18 points. DePaul made a meaningless two-pointer after missing a three-pointer that would have tied the score, providing the final margin.

Mbakwe finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds on a coolly efficient 6-for-7 shooting day from the field. But it was Williams' performance, which included four dunks -- two of them thunderous, in-the-flow-of-offense game-changers -- that likely kept the Gophers (5-0) from their first loss of the season.

"I'm being aggressive all the time instead of just in spurts," Williams said.

Williams was 7-for-9 from the field and had nine points in each half -- none bigger than the last two for the Gophers, who trailed by 12 points in the second half. Williams added five rebounds, two assists and two steals in what might have been a breakout performance for the junior who tantalized with flashes of talent and athleticism during his first two seasons.

DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said he was surprised by Williams' production but noted the tempo was suited to his skills.

"This is his kind of game," Purnell said. "When we're pressing up and down the floor, there are going to be some open-court situations."

Before anyone gets too excited, consider: DePaul was a combined 2-52 in Big East games over the past three years and was picked by conference coaches in the preseason to again be the worst of the league's 16 teams.

That said, the Blue Demons came in 2-0 and look to be at least somewhat improved. They harassed the Gophers into 11 first-half turnovers and made five of 10 threes before the break to take a 43-33 lead.

But with contributions from many sources, the Gophers rallied. Ralph Sampson, who missed Monday's game because of an ankle injury, started and chipped in eight points with four rebounds in 15 minutes. Ten different players played double-digit minutes, including all five in the crunch-time lineup of Mbakwe, Williams, Austin Hollins (11 points), Julian Welch (11 points) and Chip Armelin (six points). Their quickness helped limit DePaul to 1-for-9 three-point shooting after the break.

"Everybody contributed positively to us winning the game," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "Whoever is playing well at that particular time, that's who I usually go with."

Count Mbakwe among those hoping to see more strong play from Williams.

"We have to have this performance from him every night," Mbakwe said. "He definitely helped us win this game, and I don't know where we would have been without him."

  • related content

  • Gophers-DePaul game recap

    Thursday November 24, 2011

    He scored a career-high 18 points, including four thunderous dunks and a key putback late that helped seal the victory.

  • Gophers-Indiana State game preview

    Thursday November 24, 2011

    Gophers update: It wasn't easy, but the Gophers (5-0) advanced to the semifinals of the Old Spice Classic with an 86-85 victory over DePaul on Thanksgiving. Rodney Williams led the...


    Up next: 11 a.m. Friday vs. Indiana State (semifinals) • TV: ESPN (1500ESPN)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Los Angeles - C. Frias 2:10 PM
Colorado - J. De La Rosa
San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 2:40 PM
Arizona - A. Chafin
Boston - C. Buchholz 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - F. Liriano
Toronto - J. Happ 6:05 PM
Baltimore - B. Norris
Washington - B. Treinen 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Wood
Miami - H. Alvarez 6:10 PM
NY Mets - D. Gee
NY Yankees - B. McCarthy 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - A. Cobb
Cincinnati - D. Corcino 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks
Chicago WSox - C. Sale 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Cleveland - C. Carrasco 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Detroit - D. Price 7:10 PM
Minnesota - K. Gibson
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 7:15 PM
St. Louis - A. Wainwright
Seattle - J. Paxton 9:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Wilson
Texas - D. Holland 9:05 PM
Oakland - J. Samardzija
Philadelphia - C. Hamels 9:10 PM
San Diego - E. Stults
Tampa Bay 9/18/14 7:25 PM
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
(5) Auburn 9/18/14 6:30 PM
(20) Kansas State
Connecticut 9/19/14 7:00 PM
So Florida
Old Dominion 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Troy 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 9/20/14 11:00 AM
Bowling Green 9/20/14 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Tulane 9/20/14 11:30 AM
Hawaii 9/20/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 9/20/14 1:00 PM
North Carolina 9/20/14 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Rutgers 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Utah 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Florida 9/20/14 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 9/20/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Indiana 9/20/14 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Texas State 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 9/20/14 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 9/20/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Utah State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Idaho 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 9/20/14 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 9/20/14 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 9/20/14 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 9/20/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 9/20/14 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 9/20/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9/20/14 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9/20/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Toronto 9/19/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Edmonton 9/20/14 6:00 PM
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.
Sep 27 - at Michigan TBA
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern TBA
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 am
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




question of the day

Poll: How will the Vikings and Gophers do this weekend?

Weekly Question