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.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Pregame: On day after surgery anniversary, will Mbakwe pull a Peterson?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: January 1, 2013 - 1:21 PM

 

As we all know, Sunday was the one-year ACL surgery anniversary for two Minnesota sports icons: Adrian Peterson and Trevor Mbakwe.

For his part, Peterson was nothing short of dazzling, running for 199 yards – and falling just nine yards short of the all-time rushing record for a single season -- in the Vikings’ victory over the Packers that earned them a spot in the playoffs.

Heading into today’s matchup with No. 19 Michigan State, Mbakwe hasn’t had nearly the jaw-gaping season that Peterson has, but the situations have been quite different. As Mbakwe has pointed out, his team simply hasn’t needed him as much as the Vikings have needed Peterson. That’s not to say that Mbakwe isn’t important – of course he is. Even so, while Peterson was the Vikings’ lifeblood, Mbakwe has so far been just another contributor on a highly improved and balanced team.

The forward’s role, however, continues to grow. Without the necessity of another scorer in the lineup (because the Gophers were cruising along pretty good, status quo), coach Tubby Smith had the luxury of easing Mbakwe back slowly.

“It went by fast -- I forgot it was a year,” Mbakwe said. “A lot has changed. It made me appreciate my situation that much more. Basketball can be taken away from you at any day. I’m glad to be here, with my six year, playing with these guys against a top 20 opponent. It’s pretty exciting.”

Now, with the Big Ten season kicking off, it looks like Smith will start Mbakwe again (for the second time this year), despite a lackluster performance from the starters as a group in Minnesota’s last game against Lafayette.

With imposing big men Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix in Michigan State’s starting five, Mbakwe will have a good test of where he is.

“The level of intensity is going to pick up, and we’re excited for the challenge,” Mbakwe said.

Other notes on today’s matchup:

  • Mbakwe has gone through several practices without his chunky knee brace that he’s been wearing all season, he said. The forward is hopeful that he will be able to play without it either today or Sunday vs. Northwestern (a game, by the way, that has been set for 6 p.m. It had been a TBA time starting time until being announced on Monday It will be shown on the Big Ten Network).
  • Austin Hollins is still dealing with a mild groin strain, which he sustained on Dec. 8 against USC and Mo Walker, who was hit on the shoulder in a practice has received some treatment for his injury. Both are expected to play.
  • In the Gophers last game, vs. Lafayette, Smith played his regular starters, with Mbakwe replacing Elliott Eliason, who had started every game until that point. Smith could opt to go with the same lineup again, or potentially decide to go bigger, with Eliason at center, Mbakwe at power forward and Williams scooted over to the 3-spot. My guess is he’ll stick with his previous lineup, however, given that Branden Dawson – Michigan State’s version of Williams (a wing playing at the 4-spot) – has been playing at power forward.
  • Eliason didn’t play at all against Lafayette, but that move is probably not lasting. I expect to see the center today, either starting or off the bench.
  • Freshman Wally Ellenson played 15 minutes against Lafayette and did some good things, finishing with five points and four rebounds. Still, Smith is hesitant to guarantee his spot in the rotation. “He’s way behind. He hasn’t played, hasn’t practiced. You miss 11 games, and all the sudden it’s the Big Ten. He has a long way to go,” he said. “Wally has done as well as anybody in his situation, with the broken hand. He’s competitive, he’s a hard worker and he’s willing to stay after. He’ll see time. I don’t know how much.
  • For all the talk of Michigan State not being as strong as a year ago, the Spartans are doing a lot of things well. MSU is leading the league in scoring defense (allowing an average of 56.1 points a game) and field goal perentage defense (they are holding opponents to 35.3 percent of their shots). They are shooting third best in the Big Ten both from the field (47.8) and from the line (72.5).

Extra points: 

*Watch today's game on ESPN2

*Listen to today's game live on 1500-a.m.

*In today's Star Tribune: Rodney Williams' confidence has made his season successful.

*From Sunday's paper: The Big Ten schedule will tell the story of the Gophers season.

*From the blog yesterday: Are the Gophers ready for the Big Ten? 

 

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TBA
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Toronto 110 FINAL
LA Clippers 98
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Washington 101
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Charlotte 94
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Miami 95
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Brooklyn 85
New Orleans 100 FINAL
Chicago 107
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Milwaukee 75
Philadelphia 42 3rd Qtr 7:28
Utah 46
New York 27 2nd Qtr
Sacramento 38
Minnesota 9:30 PM
Golden State
NY Islanders 3 FINAL(SO)
Buffalo 4
Detroit 3 FINAL(OT)
Ottawa 2
Carolina 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
New Jersey 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 3
Boston 2 FINAL
Columbus 6
Winnipeg 4 FINAL(OT)
Minnesota 3
Washington 3 FINAL
Pittsburgh 0
Dallas 4 3rd Prd 5:03
St. Louis 3
Philadelphia 1 3rd Prd 2:10
Nashville 4
Anaheim 1 1st OT 3:10
Arizona 1
Chicago 3 2nd Prd 4:04
Colorado 2
Edmonton 0 1st Prd 7:47
Calgary 3
San Jose 1 1st Prd 8:58
Los Angeles 0
Indiana 87 FINAL
Georgetown 91
Maine 43 FINAL
Seton Hall 72
UNC-Wilmington 82 FINAL
Minnesota 108
Georgia State 61 FINAL
Green Bay 78
Jacksonville St 61 FINAL
Jacksonville 75
Kentucky 58 FINAL
Louisville 50
Northern Ky 55 FINAL
Northwestern 76
UAB 58 FINAL
North Carolina 89
IUPUI 55 FINAL
Pepperdine 53
Santa Clara 60 FINAL
St Marys-CA 73
Oakland 56 FINAL
Maryland 72
Gonzaga 87 FINAL
BYU 80
Mercer 77 FINAL
Georgia 86
San Francisco 77 FINAL
Pacific 71
Wright State 55 FINAL
Ohio State 100
Presbyterian 65 FINAL
Virginia Tech 87
Brescia 42 FINAL
Western Ky 89
Tennessee St 46 FINAL
Tennessee 67
Kennesaw St 30 2nd Half 9:50
Illinois 77
Colorado State 37 2nd Half 9:30
New Mexico St 40
Portland 52 2nd Half 3:15
San Diego 56
Wayland Baptist 49 2nd Half 6:52
Utah State 64
Bristol University 53 2nd Half 3:26
Weber State 107
Sacramento St 64 2nd Half 5:30
Utah Valley U 48
Southern Utah 18 1st Half 6:26
UNLV 30
SD Christian 13 1st Half 7:51
San Diego St 28
Illinois 18 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 35
Rutgers 40 FINAL
North Carolina 21
NC State 34 FINAL
UCF 27
Cincinnati 17 FINAL
Virginia Tech 33
(15) Arizona State 36 FINAL
Duke 31
Miami-Florida 21 FINAL
So Carolina 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Penn State 31
(25) Nebraska 17 3rd Qtr 12:01
(24) USC 31
Texas A&M 12/29/14 1:00 PM
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(18) Clemson
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Texas
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(19) Auburn 1/1/15 11:00 AM
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(7) Michigan State 1/1/15 11:30 AM
(4) Baylor
(16) Missouri 1/1/15 12:00 PM
Minnesota
(2) Florida State 1/1/15 4:00 PM
(3) Oregon
(5) Ohio State 1/1/15 7:30 PM
(1) Alabama
Houston 1/2/15 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Iowa 1/2/15 2:20 PM
Tennessee
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(14) UCLA
Washington 1/2/15 9:15 PM
Oklahoma State
East Carolina 1/3/15 11:00 AM
Florida
SMU 45 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 96
UCF 64 FINAL
Houston 50
BYU 62 FINAL
Gonzaga 78
Pacific 92 FINAL
San Francisco 54
St Marys-CA 62 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
San Diego 87 FINAL
Portland 65
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<
Gophers Football 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 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

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