Familiar faces return for Gophers in win over Mankato

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 2, 2012 - 6:34 AM

Trevor Mbakwe and Mo Walker played productive minutes in a blowout of Minnesota State-Mankato.

view larger photos

  

 

It's what they expected, and what they needed.

The Gophers men's basketball team showcased the returns of Trevor Mbakwe and Mo Walker, showed potential as a team and won its exhibition opener heartily Thursday night.

Joe Coleman went off for 21 points as the Gophers breezed past Minnesota State-Mankato 81-56 at Williams Arena.

"I was happy to be out there," Walker said. "It was just fun. It brought back memories from freshman year. I just tried to be out there and do what I do best -- be a big presence inside and it just paid off today I guess."

The Gophers were undoubtedly eager to start playing after a rocky offseason that included drunken driving arrests of both star forward Mbakwe and assistant coach Saul Smith. Those distractions had briefly hijacked preseason hype for a team that has been included in several top 25 rankings, but Thursday's exhibition was a sure reminder.

Mbakwe (four points), who hadn't played in a game since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last Nov. 27 in Orlando, and Walker (eight points), who had been off the court because of knee issues since December 2010, each took to the floor in the first half. Both looked to be moving well on their repaired knees -- although Mbakwe appeared to be tentative at times -- and scored quickly after entering.

"I thought he was really giddy and excited about being out there," coach Tubby Smith said of Walker. "That's his personality, and that's one of the things we missed last year, and the year before."

The positive returns were only a piece of the good vibes that surrounded the team.

Coleman, who earned a spot in the starting lineup as a freshman late last season, impressed early, cutting to the basket and looking aggressive in the paint.

"The night, I guess, was just my night," he said.

Others, such as Elliott Eliason, Andre Ingram and Austin Hollins, looked solid if not flashy. The Gophers' shooting, which was a perceived weakness a year ago, looked effortless as the team converted 72 percent of their shots in the first half and 63.2 overall. All 14 healthy Gophers played, and 13 scored.

Most of all, after last season, when many nonconference games were unnecessarily close, the Gophers put the heat on offensively and didn't look back. A 20-point lead at halftime didn't stop them from coming out aggressively after the break.

Of course, the team was far from perfect. The Gophers committed 14 turnovers and managed only a 36-30 edge over the Mavericks in rebounds despite a hefty size advantage.

Both were concerns last season when a young Gophers squad often mishandled the ball and a shallow frontcourt struggled to battle with Big Ten big men. Both aspects are expected to be shored up this season after the forward returns and an offseason spent focusing on ball handling drills.

Said point guard Andre Hollins, "I think we played well overall, but we still have a ways to go."

  • Up next: 7 p.m. Monday vs. Southwest Baptist • Williams Arena • No TV or radio

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Texas - WP: N. Martinez 5 FINAL
Miami - LP: N. Eovaldi 4
Seattle - LP: J. Paxton 3 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 4
Toronto - WP: R. Dickey 9 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 5
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 8 FINAL
Oakland - LP: J. Samardzija 5
Atlanta 1 Bottom 4th Inning
Pittsburgh 0
Houston 0 Top 4th Inning
NY Yankees 0
Arizona 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Washington 1
LA Angels 0 Bottom 2nd Inning
Boston 2
Detroit 1 Top 4th Inning
Tampa Bay 0
Cincinnati 0 Top 3rd Inning
St. Louis 0
San Francisco - J. Peavy 7:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - E. Jackson
Baltimore - W. Chen 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi
Cleveland - T. House 7:10 PM
Minnesota - R. Nolasco
Kansas City - D. Duffy 7:40 PM
Colorado - J. De La Rosa
San Diego - E. Stults 9:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Pittsburgh 8/21/14 6:30 PM
Philadelphia
Carolina 8/22/14 6:30 PM
New England
NY Giants 8/22/14 6:30 PM
NY Jets
Jacksonville 8/22/14 6:30 PM
Detroit
Oakland 8/22/14 7:00 PM
Green Bay
Chicago 8/22/14 9:00 PM
Seattle
Tampa Bay 8/23/14 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 8/23/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 8/23/14 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 8/23/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8/23/14 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Los Angeles 8:00 PM
Colorado
San Jose 9:00 PM
Seattle
Montreal 8/22/14 7:30 PM
Winnipeg
Toronto 8/23/14 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which football team will have the best record in 2014?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close