Hartman: U needs healthy Williams, Coleman

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 21, 2013 - 11:48 AM

Injuries slowed the two Gophers starters against Michigan, and they'll be vital to stay in the Big Ten race.

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Gophers senior forward Rodney Williams

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune file

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Tubby Smith is one coach who never makes excuses when he loses. So he never let out the information going into the Gophers-Michigan basketball game that sophomore guard Joe Coleman was struggling because of a bad ankle and missed two practices before that game and one after. Senior forward Rodney Williams, who played only 28 minutes and scored 11 points, was dealing with a hip injury he has played with all season and needed to wear a knee brace for the first time this year.

Now Smith will need Coleman and Williams in better health for the next two road games at Northwestern and Wisconsin if the Gophers want to stay in contention for the Big Ten title.

But Smith refuses to alibi, and believes the Gophers gave games away to Indiana and Michigan that they should have won, if they had performed like they had most of the season.

"Well, it was disappointing. We should be sitting here at 17-1," Smith said. "We gave two games away, especially the game against Michigan the other day. We really didn't play to our level and what I expected.

"The same thing happened at Indiana. We turned the ball over too much, 17 times at Indiana and 15 times the other night against Michigan, I think [Michigan] scored 22 points off of turnovers and you can't win that way. That's one of the things we've been dealing with all year long and it's not just one, it's a number of players that are having that problem. We're addressing it in practice."

And Smith added: "The thing is we end up not attacking the basket the right way. We missed a couple baskets inside the other night against Michigan, missed layups and free throws that would have put us in a position to win that game."

Smith pointed out that the Gophers are now 3-2 in the Big Ten. Michigan State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Indiana all have one conference loss.

"The game against Michigan was huge because we only get one chance to play them this year and it was a home game,' he said. "We have games we play home and away, but the only team we have a single home outing against [on the rest of the schedule] is Penn State and the other single games [on the road] are Ohio State and Purdue."

Smith believes it is critical for the Gophers to win the next two games. On Wednesday they play at Northwestern, which they have already beaten at home 69-51 this season, before playing at Wisconsin on Saturday. The Badgers will travel to Williams Arena for the rematch on Feb. 14.

The Gophers are 15-3 overall, and they have not lost to any weak teams. Duke, Indiana and Michigan were all ranked No. 5 in the country when they beat the Gophers.

The team also has committed 19 more turnovers than its opponents in Big Ten games. If the Gophers could have kept that under control, who knows, they might be unbeaten.

Stadium problem

The Metrodome has been hosting some 300 independent, college and semipro baseball games each year since it opened in 1982. Games are scheduled at all hours, sometimes well past midnight.

As part of the stadium bill passed by the Legislature, the new Vikings stadium has to be built so the same type of baseball schedule can continue.

However, in checking the preliminary plans to make one of the field fences a minimum of 305 feet rather than 295 feet, it might cost as much as $11 million extra. And that $11 million might take away some of the football features of the stadium, which wouldn't make the Vikings happy.

No doubt this will be one problem that will be worked on once the contractor has been selected to build the stadium.

Great crowds

This week saw a tremendous stretch of sporting events in the Twin Cities.

On Thursday night, an announced 14,625 fans went to Williams Arena to watch No. 5 Michigan beat the No. 9 Gophers 83-75. Then on Friday, attendance of 10,318 was announced at Mariucci Arena for the Gophers' 5-1 victory over North Dakota. On Saturday, an announced 10,256 watched those same two teams skate to a 4-4 overtime tie.

Also on Saturday, there was 16,799 announced attendance at the Timberwolves game, a 92-79 victory over Houston. The Wild had a packed house announced at 19,298 at Xcel Energy Center for the first game of the season, a 4-2 triumph over Colorado. The largest crowd of the night was at the Metrodome, where there was an announced attendance of 46,000 at the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam.

The great run of events ended where it began Sunday with attendance of 6,361 announced at the Gophers women's basketball team's 84-63 loss to Nebraska at Williams Arena. Over 120,000 fans attended sporting events in that stretch.

Jottings

• Former Vikings great Randy Moss will go to the second Super Bowl of his career after the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Atlanta Falcons 28-24 on Sunday. Moss had three receptions for 46 yards, the third-highest total for the 49ers. So far this postseason, Moss has five receptions for 71 yards. When Moss went to the Super Bowl with New England following the 2007 season, he grabbed seven receptions for 94 yards over three games.

• Single-game tickets for the Twins will go on sale Feb. 16. Meanwhile, Twins President Dave St. Peter reported that the Twins have sold more than 1.8 million tickets for the 2013 season.

• Wisconsin, the Gophers basketball team's opponent Saturday, had won seven games in a row but lost its first conference game Saturday at Iowa 70-66. After trailing 34-18 at halftime, the Badgers outscored the Hawkeyes 48-36 in the second half to keep it close.

• One of the big college wrestling duals of the year will be held Saturday when Iowa faces the Gophers at Williams Arena.

• A number of the Twins' top prospects recently finished playing in winter leagues. Outfielder Eddie Rosario, one of the best prospects in baseball, played for Indios de Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Professional Baseball League and hit .338 (45-for-133) -- second in the league -- with nine doubles, four home runs, 20 RBI and 18 runs scored in 36 games. ... Twins Minor League Player of the Year Oswaldo Arcia played outfield for Tigres de Aragua in Venezuela and hit .258 (51-for-198) with nine doubles, two triples, 10 home runs, 37 RBI and 30 runs in 57 games. ... Third baseman Miguel Sano, the Twins' No. 1 prospect, played for Estrellas de Oriente in the Dominican Republic and hit .265 (13-for-49) with three doubles, four home runs, 14 RBI and 11 runs in 20 games.

• Greg Hudson, the newly named defensive coordinator at Purdue, was with the Gophers from 2001-2004 as a linebackers coach and defensive coordinator under Glen Mason.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. shartman@startribune.com

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