Reusse: U's Williams loves home crowd, but savors Big Ten road victories

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 17, 2013 - 11:21 AM
hide

Rodney Williams

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

The prestige of winning a regular-season championship in a major basketball conference has been diminished over the past couple of decades. The results of the conference tournaments often get more attention than the regular- season standings.

College basketball has become about what happens in the single-elimination, neutral-site postseason, rather than what occurs during the 2 1/2 months when teams are playing in either loudly supportive home arenas or hostile road environments.

Yet when it comes to a conference such as the Big Ten, the pursuit of a conference title over an 18-game grind carries much more nobility than does attaining a degree of success in the one-game crapshoot of postseason play.

Confirmation of this view was sought from the Gophers' Rodney Williams during a media session Wednesday inside the Sports Pavilion.

Williams is a senior forward. He will play in his 119th game for the Gophers on Thursday night. It will be start No. 88, including 79 in a row. The visit from No. 5 Michigan will be the biggest -- and surely the loudest -- of those games.

Rodney and his teammates are hungry for a Big Ten regular-season title, even if those things are not honored as much nationally as when the Gophers won their last (on the court) in 1997.

"It is definitely a big goal for us, to win a championship," Williams said. "It's the biggest test you can have: to go on the road, face the crowd, and come out with a win.

"You have to be road warriors to win in the conference season."

Michigan did win a Big Ten opener at Northwestern, but that hardly counts. The Wolverines' first attempt as road warriors failed with Sunday's 56-53 loss at Ohio State. They get another shot inside what is sure to be an old-fashioned Williams Arena madhouse.

The Gophers split last week on the road: a nice 84-67 victory at Illinois, an 88-81 loss at Indiana. If the Gophers can win Thursday, they have the advantage of not being required to give Michigan a rematch in Ann Arbor.

"The loudest it has been in the Barn since I've been here was the Michigan State game [Dec. 31]," Williams said. "I think the crowd's going to turn that up a notch for Michigan."

Everyone enjoys playing in front of home fans. It's on the road where titles are decided. After Thursday, seven of the Gophers' last 13 will be played at Northwestern, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State, Nebraska and Purdue.

There's some cake there, but those four between Northwestern and Nebraska -- that's where a senior (Williams) or two (Trevor Mbakwe) can show teammates how to deal with the hostility.

"It was tough when I first got here -- playing on the road in the Big Ten," Williams said. "You come from playing in high school gyms with 1,000 people at the most, to having 15,000 people screaming at you."

Does he enjoy that now? "You'd rather play at home, but it's special to go on the road and win," Williams said.

Obviously, Rodney and the Gophers don't want Michigan to leave Minneapolis feeling special. And what's amazing is that -- after two seasons of complete Big Ten drudgery -- the Gophers stand as three-point favorites to beat a Michigan team that would've been rated No. 1 if it had won at Ohio State.

What is the source of this mighty Minnesota turnaround, beyond the return to health and a sixth year of eligibility for Mbakwe?

"It goes back to the NIT run we made after last season," Williams said. "We had a lot of young guys, and I think getting to the finals in New York proved to us that we were capable of showing up and playing winning basketball."

The starting five can be as good as the Big Ten has to offer right now: Mbakwe the bruiser, Williams the elevator man, Joe Coleman the slasher, Austin Hollins the defender and occasional three-point bomber, and Andre Hollins, the sophomore talent who will engage Michigan's tremendous Trey Burke in what could be a memorable duel of guards.

Thursday night should be fun.

"It will be," Rodney Williams said of his 119th and most-hyped game as a Gopher.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500-AM. preusse@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Cincinnati - M. Leake 6:05 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota - T. May 6:05 PM
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez
NY Yankees - C. Capuano 6:07 PM
Toronto - M. Buehrle
Philadelphia - D. Buchanan 6:10 PM
NY Mets - J. deGrom
Boston - A. Ranaudo 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - C. Archer
Miami - T. Koehler 6:35 PM
Atlanta - E. Santana
Cleveland - D. Salazar 7:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Vargas
Detroit - J. Verlander 7:10 PM
Chicago WSox - S. Carroll
Texas - S. Baker 7:10 PM
Houston - B. Oberholtzer
Chicago Cubs - K. Hendricks 7:15 PM
St. Louis - S. Miller
Colorado - C. Bergman 8:40 PM
Arizona - J. Collmenter
Oakland - J. Lester 9:05 PM
LA Angels - J. Weaver
Los Angeles - D. Haren 9:10 PM
San Diego - A. Cashner
Washington - J. Zimmermann 9:10 PM
Seattle - F. Hernandez
Milwaukee - W. Peralta 9:15 PM
San Francisco - R. Vogelsong
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
(21) Texas A&M 52 FINAL
(9) So Carolina 28
Wake Forest 10 FINAL
ULM 17
Boise State 13 FINAL
(18) Ole Miss 35
Tulane 31 FINAL
Tulsa 38
Rutgers 41 FINAL
Washington St 38
Weber State 14 FINAL
(19) Arizona State 45
Temple 37 FINAL
Vanderbilt 7
BYU 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 9:30 PM
Arizona
Penn State 8/30/14 7:30 AM
UCF
Troy 8/30/14 11:00 AM
UAB
(7) UCLA 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Virginia
Western Mich 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
(5) Ohio State 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Navy
Appalachian St 8/30/14 11:00 AM
Michigan
Ga Southern 8/30/14 11:30 AM
NC State
Boston College 8/30/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 8/30/14 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 8/30/14 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 8/30/14 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 8/30/14 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 8/30/14 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 8/30/14 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 8/30/14 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 8/30/14 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 8/30/14 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 8/30/14 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 8/30/14 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 8/30/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 8/30/14 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8/30/14 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 8/30/14 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 8/30/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Houston 7:00 PM
Sporting Kansas City
Ottawa 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Minnesota 9:00 PM
Phoenix
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

Date/Opponent Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pm
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pm
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. TBA
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

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close