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: Minnesota hoping a clean slate in the Big Ten tournament brings new life

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: March 14, 2013 - 10:17 AM

The Gophers took a quick 7-2 lead in Thursday's opening Big Ten tournament quarterfinal, but Illinois came back to score 19 of the next 21 points. Trevor Mbakwe and Austin Hollins both were on the bench for most of the half after picking up their second personal fouls.

The Gophers shot 27 percent from the field in the first half and had 11 turnovers.

Come back to startribune.com after the game for updates.

 

Read my story on the tasks ahead forTrevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams, and my advance for the Big Ten tournament -- which starts today, with the Gophers’ 11 a.m. matchup against Illinois -- here.

Rodney Williams could feel the collective exhale, he said, when the season ended.

The regular season has been rocky for the Gophers, to say the least, and it had been acknowledged both from players and from coach Tubby Smith that the team was suffering from a mental standpoint. Inconsistency – great wins followed by stunning losses – weighs on you at some point, and this team is feeling the burden.

Today, with a first-round matchup against Illinois, the Gophers have an opportunity to start the season anew, on a neutral court, with a blank record.

“Coming into it, and you lose two straight games, that’s kind of tough to come off of,” Williams said. “But when you’re going into tournament play, you get kind of a sigh of relief, because you’re basically starting from scratch. When you get those opportunities, you’ve got to make the best of them and hopefully we can do that.”

The last time the Gophers played Illiniois, they recorded a 57-53 loss in the only game that Williams has missed all season. He was dealing with a sore shoulder then – an injury he’s still wearing a sleeve for, but that isn’t bothering him as much – and Elliott Eliason started in his place.

Asked whether he felt he could be a difference-maker against the Illini, who the Gophers beat the first time around in Champaign, Williams replied:

“I definitely feel like I could make a difference – get out there on their 3-point shots and contest them a little bit. But we’ll see how it goes [Thursday].”

It’s no secret, though, that Williams’ NBA stock has been fading for the second half of the season, when he was supposed to, for once and for all, quiet his critics with some consistent domination. We’ve seen sparks, but more often, his performances have been uninspiring and occasionally lethargic.

His last seven outings have looked like this:

Vs. Wisconsin: 10 points, five rebounds
At Iowa: 0 points, 1 rebound
At Ohio State: 0 points, 1 rebound
Vs. Indiana: Seven points, five rebounds
Vs. Penn State: 10 points, seven rebounds
At Nebraska: 0 points, four rebounds
At Purdue: 13 points, six rebounds

The ups and downs have left his coach baffled as to how to squeeze the most out of his talented forward, who wows on some nights while disappearing on others.

“I’ve been trying for four years,” Smith said. “I think it’s just staying focused, just playing as hard as he can play, every minute and every second on the court. Not taking any time off, just every possession’s got to be all out. I think that’s it. We always tell guys, you can just play harder – that’s the key, just play as hard as you can play. … He’s an in-betweener. He’s not a great outside threat, he’s not a good inside threat. He’s a good all-around player, he’s got to play to his potential, he’s got to raise his level of play.”

If Williams can find the consistency he had during the non-conference schedule, the Gophers could be another step in the direction of a postseason run, that could help to bolster Williams’ draft resume, which is on the rocks, as well as Smith’s job security, which is in the same spot.

“There’s a burden,” Williams said. “But I can’t let that get to me. I can’t go out there worrying about that. I’ve just got to go out there and play and help out my team in any way they need me.”

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Chicago 11/27/14 11:30 AM
Detroit
Philadelphia 11/27/14 3:30 PM
Dallas
Seattle 11/27/14 7:30 PM
San Francisco
Cleveland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Buffalo
Washington 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Tennessee 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Houston
San Diego 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore
NY Giants 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Cincinnati 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Oakland 11/30/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
New Orleans 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Carolina 11/30/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
Arizona 11/30/14 3:05 PM
Atlanta
New England 11/30/14 3:25 PM
Green Bay
Denver 11/30/14 7:30 PM
Kansas City
Miami 12/1/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
Golden State 111 FINAL
Orlando 96
Brooklyn 99 FINAL
Philadelphia 91
Portland 105 FINAL
Charlotte 97
Washington 87 FINAL
Cleveland 113
LA Clippers 104 FINAL
Detroit 98
New York 102 FINAL
Dallas 109
Toronto 126 FINAL
Atlanta 115
Milwaukee 103 FINAL
Minnesota 86
Sacramento 89 FINAL
Houston 102
Utah 82 FINAL
Oklahoma City 97
Indiana 100 FINAL
San Antonio 106
Denver 112 FINAL
Phoenix 120
Memphis 99 4th Qtr 0:13
LA Lakers 93
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Buffalo 1
Washington 2 FINAL(OT)
NY Islanders 3
Philadelphia 2 FINAL
Detroit 5
NY Rangers 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Carolina 0 FINAL
Florida 1
Toronto 3 FINAL(OT)
Pittsburgh 4
Los Angeles 4 FINAL
Minnesota 0
Chicago 3 FINAL
Colorado 2
Calgary 1 3rd Prd 7:22
San Jose 0
Robert Morris 46 FINAL
Chattanooga 61
Rochester College 35 FINAL
Eastern Mich 68
Marist 68 FINAL
Fresno State 64
Butler 74 FINAL
North Carolina 66
Liberty 50 FINAL
Morgan State 51
Denver 57 FINAL
Belmont 78
American Univ 64 FINAL
Hampton 60
Sacred Heart 72 FINAL
James Madison 79
Northeastern 54 FINAL
Massachusetts 79
Samford 71 FINAL
Kennesaw St 84
ULM 48 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 61
Hawaii 75 FINAL
East Carolina 73
Missouri 74 FINAL
Chaminade 60
UCLA 65 FINAL
Oklahoma 75
North Florida 72 FINAL
Elon 65
Oral Roberts 69 FINAL
Milwaukee 66
Chicago State 61 FINAL
Western Carolina 66
Purdue 87 FINAL
BYU 85
Furman 54 FINAL
Duke 93
San Francisco 72 FINAL
Evansville 79
Wisconsin 72 FINAL
UAB 43
Davidson 95 FINAL
UCF 69
Albany 75 FINAL
Colgate 71
Longwood 66 FINAL
George Washington 91
Delaware State 76 FINAL
Iona 126
Trinity Baptist 57 FINAL
Jacksonville 69
Cleveland State 33 FINAL
Louisville 45
St Johns 70 FINAL
Minnesota 61
PSU-Harrisburg 42 FINAL
Navy 67
Richmond 72 FINAL
NC State 84
Grambling St 54 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
Georgia State 83 FINAL
Oakland 78
Campbell 64 FINAL
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Goucher 43 FINAL
Towson 97
Bryant 47 FINAL
Vermont 73
Miami-Ohio 63 FINAL
Virginia Tech 78
Mount St Marys 49 FINAL
Wake Forest 83
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Yale 82
UMKC 63 FINAL
Youngstown St 66
Canisius 60 FINAL
Cornell 67
Va Military 72 FINAL
West Virginia 103
Lehigh 86 FINAL
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UC Riverside 62 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 66
Morehead State 77 FINAL
Marshall 68
Miss Valley St 52 FINAL
North Texas 67
UNC-Asheville 75 FINAL
South Carolina 89
Tenn Tech 65 FINAL
SE Louisiana 86
Texas Southern 59 FINAL
SMU 72
Radford 50 FINAL
TCU 74
TX-Pan American 48 FINAL
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Wayne St-NE 69 FINAL
South Dakota 86
Kansas State 47 FINAL
Pittsburgh 70
Northern Ill 49 FINAL
Iowa 70
Fla Gulf Coast 45 FINAL
Green Bay 59
Carroll (MT) 52 FINAL
Montana 75
Florida A&M 33 FINAL
New Mexico St 78
Auburn 71 FINAL
Oregon State 69
Eastern Ky 73 FINAL
Southern Utah 64
Stetson 41 FINAL
Wyoming 65
Northern Ky 60 FINAL
Eastern Wash 81
Utah Valley U 60 FINAL
Idaho State 57
Florida 65 FINAL
Georgetown 66
Northwestern 42 FINAL
Northern Iowa 61
Georgia 76 FINAL
Gonzaga 88
Cal Poly 52 FINAL
California 72
Utah State 70 FINAL
UC Davis 77
Arizona 61 FINAL
San Diego St 59
Alabama State 68 FINAL
North Dakota 75
Portland State 63 FINAL
CS-Northridge 55
Tulsa 30 2nd Half
Oklahoma State 45
Pacific 33 2nd Half 16:10
Alaska-Anchorage 35
Missouri State 11/27/14 1:00 AM
Colorado State
Ohio U 24 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 21
LSU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas A&M
(6) TCU 11/27/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Northern Ill 11/28/14 10:00 AM
Western Mich
Nebraska 11/28/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
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(19) Marshall
UCF 11/28/14 11:00 AM
So Florida
Houston 11/28/14 11:00 AM
SMU
Akron 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Kent State
Ball State 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Bowling Green
Buffalo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Massachusetts
Toledo 11/28/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Arkansas 11/28/14 1:30 PM
(17) Missouri
Navy 11/28/14 2:00 PM
South Alabama
(13) Arizona State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(12) Arizona
Stanford 11/28/14 2:30 PM
(9) UCLA
(21) Colorado State 11/28/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
Virginia 11/28/14 7:00 PM
Virginia Tech
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Tulsa
North Texas 11/29/14 11:00 AM
TX-San Antonio
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(8) Georgia
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So Carolina 11/29/14 11:00 AM
(23) Clemson
West Virginia 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Rice 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Louisiana Tech
Michigan 11/29/14 11:00 AM
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Indiana
Illinois 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Northwestern
Cincinnati 11/29/14 11:00 AM
Temple
NC State 11/29/14 11:30 AM
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Boston College
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Utah 11/29/14 12:00 PM
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Texas State 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Idaho 11/29/14 1:00 PM
Appalachian St
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Marshall 49 FINAL
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Oral Roberts 43 FINAL
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LSU 0 Postponed
Texas-El Paso 0
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Yale 53
Evansville 39 FINAL
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(4) Tennessee 63 FINAL
Chattanooga 67
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Columbia 81
Providence 56 FINAL
Dayton 72
Presbyterian 43 FINAL
Xavier 45
Albany 64 FINAL
Canisius 59
VA Commonwealth 48 FINAL
William & Mary 56
Alabama A&M 44 FINAL
Alabama 75
Colgate 35 FINAL
(22) Georgia 66
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Southern Ill 82
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Utah Valley U 49 FINAL
UC Davis 59
Butler 62 FINAL
BYU 81
TX-Pan American 45 FINAL
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McNeese State 27 FINAL
(7) Texas A&M 93
Milwaukee 80 FINAL
Marquette 85
Northern Ariz 62 FINAL
TX-Arlington 80
Jackson State 70 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Indiana State 74 FINAL
South Alabama 53
Kansas State 0 Postponed
Santa Clara 0
Long Beach St 69 FINAL
Alaska-Anchorage 60
Iona 49 FINAL
Kansas 90
Fresno Pacific 60 FINAL
CS-Bakersfield 82
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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 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 pm

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