Success raises optimism for rugged U basketball Big Ten slate

  • Updated: December 22, 2012 - 7:23 AM

It's been all about defense, defense, defense up to this point for the Gophers. Minnesota has been averaging a league best in both blocked shots and steals.

The Big Ten Conference schedule lies ahead as a challenge that will either validate the No. 13 Gophers men's basketball team's good work to this point or expose its weaknesses against the elite talent of the league. Once those games begin, we will know a lot more about the team. But for now, a batch of superlatives paint a picture of where the Gophers are now and will be going forward. As they head into their final nonconference game Saturday, Amelia Rayno offers a report card of sorts.



It's been all about defense, defense, defense up to this point for the Gophers. Minnesota has been averaging a league best in both blocked shots and steals while limiting opponents to 37.1 percent shooting (third-best in the Big Ten Conference) and averaging almost 16 points a game more than their opponents. When the Gophers struggle in other aspects, defense has been what keeps them in games.


The Gophers are struggling most with shooting. While they've had strong games in that regard, the results simply haven't been consistent, and their average number of three-pointers per game (5.1) ranked third from the bottom of the Big Ten. With so many teams shooting the long ball well in this league (six teams make more than 33 percent from three-point range), the Gophers will need to turn on their outside game to keep up.


The frontcourt has been lauded for its depth and range of types since before the season started. But with the conference schedule right around the corner, we still don't have a sure picture of what the Gophers have down low. Starter Elliott Eliason has been lacking both in presence and scoring. Trevor Mbakwe is still gaining strength from his torn ACL a year ago. Mo Walker has the size the Gophers need but still needs to get better conditioned to run with a fast team. Is the frontcourt a strength? Can the Gophers work out the pieces? We have yet to find out.


Rodney Williams: After starting off his junior season with up-and-down performances, Williams has made a statement as a senior that he is indeed capable of leading this team. The forward has been remarkably consistent this season in scoring, rebounding and defense.


Maverick Ahanmisi: Two months into his junior season, Ahanmisi has aptly handled the role of backup point guard while nearly doubling his offensive stats from a year ago. The California native is shooting 52 percent from the field, 44 percent from three-point range. "There have been a couple games ... where he's really stepped up and kept us in games when Andre Hollins got in foul trouble or wasn't shooting the ball well," Mbakwe said. "He's kind of been proving his worth to our team so far."


Austin Hollins: The junior can make things happen both offensively and defensively, but his scrappy on-the-ball defense has been key in the team's up-tempo play. "His steals get us pretty involved. It gets scoring in transition, which leads to dunks and and-ones, which gets the crowd involved pretty good," Joe Coleman said.


Williams: Andre Hollins had the single greatest game (41 points vs. Memphis). But while the beauty of this team has been that there hasn't been pressure on any one individual to take the reins most nights, it's hard to deny that Williams has been the steady, reliable force more than anyone else. He has shown the capability not only to be the dynamic leader, but also the steady leader, quietly having a great season.


Coleman: The sophomore still has a ways to go in ball handling, but Coleman has substantially improved from a year ago and has been a big spark offensively. "He doesn't get the attention a lot of people get, but he does a lot of the scrappy work," Mbakwe said.


Mbakwe: It's been a long road back for the sixth-year senior, but the forward is peaking at the right time.

  • related content

  • Smith suggests Mbakwe could start Saturday

    Friday December 21, 2012

    The change that Gophers fans have been anticipating since the beginning of the season could actually happen as soon as Saturday.

  • Preview: Gophers basketball vs. Lafayette

    Friday December 21, 2012

    Gophers at a glance: It's difficult for all eyes not to be glancing at Michigan State's arrival to the Barn on New Year's Eve to begin the Big Ten schedule...

  • Minnesota head basketball coach Tubby Smith was honored for his 500th...


    6 p.m. today • Williams Arena • TV: Big Ten Network (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Los Angeles - R. Hernandez 12:05 PM
Chicago Cubs - F. Doubront
Detroit - M. Scherzer 12:05 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Philadelphia - J. Williams 3:05 PM
Oakland - D. Pomeranz
Toronto - M. Stroman 3:05 PM
NY Yankees - C. Capuano
Arizona - T. Cahill 3:10 PM
Colorado - E. Butler
Boston - R. De La Rosa 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Milwaukee - M. Garza 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Washington - J. Zimmermann 6:10 PM
Miami - J. Cosart
NY Mets - J. Niese 6:10 PM
Atlanta - M. Minor
Chicago WSox - H. Noesi 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Cleveland - T. House 6:10 PM
Minnesota - T. May
Seattle - C. Young 6:10 PM
Houston - D. Keuchel
Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Wacha
San Francisco - Y. Petit 7:40 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Texas - C. Lewis 8:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
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
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 14 2nd Qtr 15:00
Rice 7
Troy 0 2nd Qtr 14:30
(13) Georgia 21
Georgia Tech 3 2nd Qtr 11:52
Virginia Tech 6
Eastern Mich 0 2nd Qtr 11:04
(11) Michigan State 34
Iowa 7 2nd Qtr 6:42
Pittsburgh 7
Bowling Green 10 1st Qtr 0:00
(19) Wisconsin 14
Maryland 7 1st Qtr 9:39
Syracuse 3
Tulane 7 1st Qtr 7:03
Duke 7
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Marshall 1:00 PM
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Utah 2:30 PM
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Texas State 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Vancouver FC 4:00 PM
Houston 6:00 PM
New England 6:30 PM
San Jose 6:30 PM
Seattle 6:30 PM
Red Bull New York
D.C. 7:30 PM
FC Dallas 9:30 PM
Los Angeles
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 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