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

Gophers pregame: Smith wants Coleman, his most versatile player, on the floor

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: February 17, 2013 - 11:36 AM

 

 

Here’s a stat for you, one that you may have heard if you were watching ESPN’s broadcast of the Gophers-Wisconsin game:

Minnesota is 10-1 when Joe Coleman scores in double digits.

Part of that is because Coleman excelled in the non-conference schedule, scoring in double digits in eight of those games.

But it’s no coincidence that Minnesota’s struggles have aligned with Coleman’s – the Gophers miss his scoring, especially with the bench seemingly unable to do much more than tread water against Big Ten competition.

As I wrote in today’s Star Tribune, Coleman is averaging just 6.5 points a game in the last eight, with the notable exception being the Gophers’ last game against Iowa, at home, when Coleman scored 12 (and the Gophers winning).

After the loss against Illinois, coach Tubby Smith briefly toyed with the idea of taking Coleman out of the starting lineup as he contemplated keeping Elliott Eliason – who filled in with Rodney Williams taking a seat with shoulder problems.

Ultimately, he decided to stick with Coleman, who broke into the lineup last season and has been there ever since.

“It was just searching to see what was available and how we could respond or how we could change,” Smith said. “But in that situation, Joe was probably our most versatile player on the court … That’s why I like Joe, he can make things happen for us, just like he did in the game the other day against Wisconsin.”

Coleman didn’t even hit his average on Thursday, but the guard did some other things that indicated he could be turning things around. Coleman grabbed seven rebounds, the most he’s gotten in six games, and his shot selection was more deliberate – shooting 1-for-2 from the field and driving inside to get the foul three times.

In all, Coleman was in the paint – where he does his best work -- with the ball four times (he got to the line three of those times) in the Wisconsin game, a significant upgrade from the previous three games, when he got there a total of just three games.

But Smith made it clear that he wants his guard to be more than a cutter and driver.

“He’s got to shoot that shot because he’s got to take pressure off of the inside,” Smith said. “When people (are on) Mbakwe, [Coleman]’s just got to have the confidence to shoot it. I’m always just telling him just shoot it and just stay out there. He can beat most people off the dribble because he’s usually being guarded by a bigger guy that he’s quicker than, but he just needs to pick the times that he’s going to take the ball off the dribble … I like what he did in the game – attacked the basket, drew the fouls, took the free throws, he made the free throws that was huge to get us into overtime.”

Can Coleman be the guy the Gophers need to notch two in a row?

Other notes from today’s matchup with Iowa:

  • As a reminder: Austin Hollins was the guy to win the first Iowa game, at Williams Arena. The Gophers were tied with the Hawkeyes with 13 seconds remaining and coming out of a timeout with the ball. Hollins quickly got the ball and shot a 3-pointer for the win.
  • Rodney Williams has been dealing with a shoulder injury, and was fouled hard in Thursday’s win over Wisconsin, but is expected to start again tonight.
  • Five of Iowa’s seven Big Ten losses have been by four points or fewer, including the game at Minnesota this season, where they fell, 62-59 on Feb 3.
  • Roy Devyn Marble can be hot or cold, but in the last two games he has been hot. After totaling just two points in the Hawkeyes’ previous two games , Marble has scored 43 in the last two (albeit against Northwestern and Penn State).
  • Aaron White is one of just three Big Ten players to average at least 13.4 points and 5.9 rebounds a game. The other two are Deshaun Thomas (Ohio State) and Cody Zeller (Indiana).
  • Free pizza slices will be distributed to the first 1,200 UI students! Now I think that’s just the kind of promotion that could help get the Barn rocking.

Extra points:

*Watch today’s game on Big Ten Network
*Listen to today’s game live on 1500-a.m.
*In today’s Star Tribune: Gophers will need Coleman to finish strong.
*On the blog: Reid Travis recruiting update.
*Gophers notes: Locker room breakdown by Smith was just a spontaneous thing.
*Smith wants the Gophers to simplify things, have fun.
*National notebook: plenty of teams going through mid-season slump.

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