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.

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Trevor Mbakwe is willing to play through the pain, but are the Gophers utilizing him well?

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: February 7, 2013 - 11:38 AM

Trevor Mbakwe did some impressive things in last night’s 61-50 loss at Michigan State. He pulled down 14 rebounds, the second-most he has all season. He was a major part of the Gophers’ initial comeback in the first half. He helped hold Spartans center Derrick Nix to just six points and five rebounds. He played through pain.

But it wasn’t hard to see that it was difficult for the center to get into any real rhythm, and there are several reasons for that.

First, coach Tubby Smith took Mbakwe out less than five minutes into the first half (along with Andre Hollins and Rodney Williams), opting for a lineup of Maverick Ahanmisi, Joe Coleman, Austin Hollins, Andre Ingram and Elliott Eliason. When Mbakwe was in, the Gophers struggled to get the ball to him down low with any continuity. And just when he was starting to get into a flow, Mbakwe was fouled hard and hit the floor. When he came up he was wincing was clutching his right wrist.

Mbakwe has been dealing with a sprained wrist and bone bruise on his right hand for the past two weeks, with Wednesday’s tweak being the third time in five games that he seemed to significantly exacerbate the injury. After the Michigan State foul, Mbakwe taped up his wrist (and played the rest of the game that way) but was able to execute his free throws.

“He's a hard-nosed kid, a real gutsy kid,” Smith said. “It's a strain, so it's going to be sore. When you're out there competing the adrenaline is flowing, he'll get treated and hopefully there's not any serious damage. He'll be fine I imagine.”
Said Mbakwe: “The Big Ten is physical. You get fouled pretty hard, but it’s part of the game and that’s what teams like to do and you’ve got to keep playing through it … It didn’t affect me too much with the adrenaline and the pain medications I was taking. It’s just another nagging injury that I’ve got going on.”

Mbakwe is smart. He knows fans don’t want to hear excuses. He knows the team needs him now, and the Gophers can’t afford for him to ask for any rest. He will continue to play through the pain – but the truth is, the Gophers weren’t getting the most out of Mbakwe even when his wrist was completely healthy.

The center – one of the team’s biggest difference-makers despite the fact that he’s been hobbled off and on all season – has become a more and more diminished aspect of the Gophers’ offense as the season has worn on and the competition has gotten stronger. When faced with zone defenses, the Gophers often all but give up going inside to him, leaving him to create his own shot or score off rebounds. Against Michigan State, the Gophers weren’t faced with that challenge, but the Spartans’ tough man-to-man and post defense was enough to limit the inside play.

“I thought Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix were playing outstanding post defense inside,” Smith said. “That limits your touches when you have that type of size.”

Unfortunately for the Gophers, that size (Payne is 6-10 and Nix is 6-9) is just about everywhere in the Big Ten, and cannot continue to be an excuse for untapped potential down low.

The Gophers badly need Mbakwe, he’s willing to fight through the pain for that, and yet the Gophers are minimizing his effect with a lack of offensive vision.

“I tried to be more aggressive,” Mbakwe said. “Toward the end they started playing us different and we weren’t able to take advantage of some of our inside plays. We were forced to take the long shots and stuff like that.”


Houston 7:30 PM
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 24 2nd Qtr 7:45
Cleveland 29
New Orleans 30 2nd Qtr 8:45
Washington 19
Milwaukee 4 1st Qtr 10:05
New York 7
Philadelphia 7 1st Qtr 10:10
Brooklyn 3
Charlotte 0 1st Qtr 11:01
Atlanta 0
Sacramento 7:30 PM
San Antonio
Memphis 7:30 PM
Tampa Bay 8:30 PM
Arkansas State 10/21/14 7:00 PM
Connecticut 10/23/14 6:00 PM
(18) East Carolina
Miami-Florida 10/23/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
So Florida 10/24/14 6:00 PM
Troy 10/24/14 6:30 PM
South Alabama
BYU 10/24/14 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 10/24/14 9:00 PM
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Ottawa 6 FINAL
Hamilton 16
Montreal 20 FINAL
Toronto 12
Calgary 33 FINAL
Winnipeg 23
Edmonton 24 FINAL
Saskatchewan 19
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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 am
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




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