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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NY Mets - LP: J. Familia 6 FINAL
Miami - WP: A. Ramos 9
Philadelphia - WP: C. Hamels 7 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Boston - LP: B. Badenhop 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay - WP: G. Balfour 4
Minnesota - WP: P. Hughes 6 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4
Pittsburgh 4 Top 9th Inning
St. Louis 5
Milwaukee - LP: J. Nelson 2 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Turner 4
Detroit 5 Top 3rd Inning
Cleveland 1
Seattle 0 Top 4th Inning
Oakland 5
San Francisco 4 Bottom 9th Inning
Colorado 2
Arizona 0 Top 4th Inning
San Diego 0
San Francisco - T. Hudson 4:40 PM
Colorado - F. Morales
Washington - G. Gonzalez 7:10 PM
Los Angeles - R. Hernandez
Texas - C. Lewis 7:10 PM
Kansas City - Y. Ventura
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
Buffalo 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Chicago
New Orleans 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta
Minnesota 9/7/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Cleveland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Jacksonville 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Oakland 9/7/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
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Baltimore
Washington 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Houston
Tennessee 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
New England 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Tampa Bay
San Francisco 9/7/14 3:25 PM
Dallas
Indianapolis 9/7/14 7:30 PM
Denver
Utah State 7 FINAL
Tennessee 38
SMU 0 FINAL
(10) Baylor 45
Miami-Florida 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
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(7) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(2) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(15) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 30 FINAL
Saskatchewan 35
Toronto 12 FINAL
Hamilton 13
Edmonton 7 15:00
Calgary 8
Indiana 39 3rd Qtr
Chicago 31
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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 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

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