From Lafayette to Big Ten, here comes U

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 23, 2012 - 8:57 AM

After an easy win, and the return of Trevor Mbakwe to the starting lineup, the season now takes a seismic shift.

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For most fans, Trevor Mbakwe in the starting lineup was a certainty from the day he announced he was returning for a sixth season, although most expected it wouldn't take this long.

But in the last game before rugged Big Ten play begins, the sure thing seemed to win out, with Mbakwe replacing center Elliott Eliason -- who didn't play at all -- and starting for the first time this season as the 13th-ranked Gophers men's basketball team cruised past Lafayette 75-50 on Saturday at Williams Arena.

Still, coach Tubby Smith wasn't ready to commit to keeping the same starting five for the conference opener against Michigan State on New Year's Eve.

"I think we looked a little winded, and so I wasn't very impressed with it at first," Smith said of the first group. "We'll continue to evaluate. Like I said tonight, I wasn't impressed with the start of the game, so we'll see."

One game after scoring 14 points and grabbing a career-high 18 rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench, Mbakwe wasn't a critical factor in Saturday's victory, finishing with five points and four rebounds and sitting for most of the second half after getting five stitches over his right eye. But with the team's deep offensive balance starting to click after a sluggish start, a hero's performance wasn't needed this time.

Joe Coleman led the way with 12 points, showing off his athleticism with four dunks to keep the announced crowd of 14,625 going, and added two steals and four rebounds. Reserve Oto Osenieks had his best performance of the season, tying a career high with 10 points and four rebounds.

The Gophers (12-1) started the game going 1-for-7 from the field, as they looked flustered against Lafayette's 2-3 zone. But after falling behind 6-4, they rebounded to go on a 10-0 run fueled by two three-pointers, one each from Andre Hollins and Maverick Ahanmisi. They also got a big boost from Osenieks, who has struggled this season. He had seven points -- including a three-pointer and a dunk -- with two rebounds in the first half.

Freshman Wally Ellenson, whose redshirt was pulled in the Gophers' previous game against North Dakota State, didn't play in the first half, but he finished with five points -- a dunk and three-pointer -- and four rebounds.

"That's why we're such a good team -- because we have a long bench," Osenieks said. "Anybody can come in and step up and even do it better than the first guys."

Mbakwe scored his first bucket as a starter this season on a midrange jumper with 8:53 left in the first half and did all of his scoring before the break. He left shortly after starting the second half when he was hit in the face.

But even with the big man gone, Smith didn't play Eliason, calling it a "coach's decision" that he didn't care to elaborate on, saying he "wanted to make sure he understood some things." Instead, the coach opted to play Andre Ingram and Mo Walker extended minutes.

"We were surprised," Rodney Williams said. "But who plays is up to the coaches. We don't have any control over that, but we know Elliott is going to be ready whenever he's in the game, and he was the loudest guy cheering on the bench tonight, too."

Mbakwe hadn't started since Nov. 27 of last year, when he tore his right ACL in a game against Dayton. This season, Smith -- clearly buoyed by the chemistry of the successful starting five from last year's NIT run -- kept that lineup intact until Saturday.

"It was a long time and some of the guys joked about it, but it felt good," Mbakwe said.

  • NO. 13 GOPHERS 75, LAFAYETTE 50

    Up next: 1 p.m. Dec. 31 vs. No. 20 Michigan State • Williams Arena • TV: ESPN2 (1500-AM)

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Chicago 17 FINAL
Detroit 34
Philadelphia 33 FINAL
Dallas 10
Seattle 19 FINAL
San Francisco 3
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Edmonton 0 FINAL(OT)
Nashville 1
ULM 54 FINAL
Robert Morris 71
Santa Clara 57 FINAL
Tennessee 64
Oklahoma 59 FINAL
Butler 46
Austin Peay 79 FINAL
Brown 58
Princeton 56 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 62
Coastal Carolina 67 FINAL
Chattanooga 78
Kansas 76 FINAL
Rhode Island 60
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
Georgetown 65
FIU 53 FINAL
USC Upstate 68
Long Island 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 73
San Diego 71 FINAL
Xavier 82
Illinois 88 FINAL
Indiana State 62
Cal State Fullerton 67 FINAL
Wright State 62
Western Ky 62 FINAL
Saint Josephs 59
Michigan State 77 FINAL
Rider 45
UCLA 56 FINAL
North Carolina 78
Long Beach State 73 FINAL
Western Mich 55
Marquette 72 FINAL
Georgia Tech 70
Stephen F Austin 73 FINAL
Prairie View 61
UAB 47 FINAL
Florida 56
Rice 71 FINAL
Mercer 77
San Jose St 56 FINAL
Washington 78
Washington St 43 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 71
Baylor 71 FINAL
Memphis 47
LSU 23 FINAL
Texas A&M 17
(6) TCU 48 FINAL
Texas 10
Northern Ill 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11:00 AM
Iowa
Western Ky 11:00 AM
(19) Marshall
UCF 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
East Carolina 7:30 PM
Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
Old Dominion 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Fla Atlantic
(16) Georgia Tech 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(8) Georgia
Kentucky 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(24) Louisville
So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(7) Ohio State
Purdue 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Syracuse 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Boston College
Louisiana 11/29/14 11:30 AM
Troy
Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
Wyoming 11/29/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico
New Mexico St 11/29/14 2:00 PM
Arkansas State
UAB 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(4) Miss State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Notre Dame 11/29/14 2:30 PM
USC
(10) Michigan State 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Penn State
(22) Minnesota 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(14) Wisconsin
(5) Baylor 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Texas Tech
Florida 11/29/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
Rutgers 11/29/14 2:30 PM
Maryland
San Jose St 11/29/14 2:30 PM
San Diego St
Tennessee 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Kansas 11/29/14 3:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Connecticut 11/29/14 3:00 PM
Memphis
BYU 11/29/14 3:30 PM
California
ULM 11/29/14 5:00 PM
Ga Southern
Middle Tennessee 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Hawaii 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Fresno State
Wake Forest 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Duke
Pittsburgh 11/29/14 6:00 PM
Miami-Florida
(15) Auburn 11/29/14 6:45 PM
(2) Alabama
(3) Oregon 11/29/14 7:00 PM
Oregon State
Utah State 11/29/14 9:15 PM
(25) Boise State
Washington 11/29/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Nevada 11/29/14 9:30 PM
UNLV
UCF 12/4/14 6:30 PM
East Carolina
Hamilton 11/30/14 5:00 PM
Calgary
Hartford 43 FINAL
Furman 53
Clemson 77 FINAL
Ohio State 86
Idaho State 53 FINAL
San Diego State 68
East Carolina 58 FINAL
(22) Syracuse 69
Santa Clara 0 Cancelled
Texas-El Paso 0
Florida State 68 FINAL
Washington 80
Wichita State 39 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 56
Wisconsin 44 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 67
Kansas State 0 Cancelled
LSU 0
BYU 73 FINAL
BYU-Hawaii 52
Charlotte 58 FINAL
Montana 67
Illinois 77 FINAL
(9) Kentucky 71
Central Michigan 61 FINAL
Richmond 56
Oklahoma 68 FINAL
South Florida 83
Princeton 72 FINAL
Wake Forest 55
(19) Oregon State 85 FINAL
Butler 53
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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.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pm

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