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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Gophers notes: Mbakwe will need to stay out of foul trouble vs. UCLA

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: March 19, 2013 - 3:57 PM

In today's Star Tribune: The Gophers are a trendy pick to beat UCLA despite downturn.

The Gophers have their share of flaws this season – that’s obvious.

But there are three I would consider their fatal flaws:

1. Too many turnovers
2. Inconsistent shooting
3. Too much fouling.

We talk a ton about the first two – if the Gophers could only hold onto the ball or make more shots from the outside, their weaknesses in the half-court offense wouldn’t be so exposed, for example.

But the third deserves a lot of attention as well, especially with Trevor Mbakwe missing all but 12 minutes of the last two first halves for Minnesota combined after the sixth-year senior picked up two early fouls in each game (at Purdue at against Illinois in the first round of the Big Ten tournament).

After the Gophers were eliminated in the conference tournament, Mbakwe expressed frustration at himself for getting into quick foul trouble once again, and hurting his team.

Smith, afterwards, second-guessed his decision to sit Mbakwe for the rest of the first half while the Gophers were reeling, but on Tuesday, he defended his coaching move, saying that based on history, his hands were tied.

“Two fouls -- there’s nothing I can do about that, and Trevor can’t play with three,” Smith said. “He’s proven that. Once he gets his first or second foul, he’s winding down defensively. And that’s a real problem for us, because now an opposing team just throws it inside on him and he’s just going to back off.”

The solution, the coach said, is for Mbakwe to be more aggressive earlier in the possession, rather than be forced to foul a guy who is going at the basket.

“That’s one of the things we talk about him all the time -- just keep it off him,” Smith said. “You’re strong enough, physical enough, quick enough, usually you’re playing against a bigger guy – don’t let him catch it. Our defense is designed on if the ball is scoring in the pass. We deny on scoring in the pass. So if you let him get the ball, that means you didn’t do your job to start with. And that’s how he gets in trouble.”

One of the Gophers’ best matchup advantages against UCLA is their strength on the boards – an area where the Bruins are inconsistent, so keeping Mbakwe in the game for the maximum amount of time will be critical.

Other notes from today’s media access:

  • Wally Ellenson, who has had the flu, is expected to join the team in Austin. The freshman is still sick, but no longer contagious. The health of the rest of the team is good.
  • Smith said he’s seen a renewed energy in the last couple of days of practice, which has brought a better intensity all-around. “That’s kind of gotten me happier,” he said. “So it makes it a lot more fun.”
  • The Gophers play the very last first-round game of the NCAA tournament on Friday. Smith said he would much have preferred an earlier slot (let’s be honest, me and my deadline would have too) just because players can get mentally drained after watching a full day of basketball and getting wrapped up in the emotion of other games. “I was always happier when we had the first round, the Thursday game,” Smith said. “That’s always tough because unless you’re just so much more superior than the opposing team, it can be a long day, a long process.
  • With UCLA being a pretty thin team (with Jordan Adams out with a broke foot, coach Ben Howland basically plays six guys), the Gophers’ depth should be a strength, but the bench has struggled in the second half of the season. Still, Smith, who played a shorter bench effectively in the second half of the Gophers’ loss to Illinois, thinks that Minnesota will be better off if they are able to get solid minutes from a variety of reserves. “We haven’t had much success with that lately,” he said. “It might be my fault not playing them as much, but we haven’t seen the production that we’ve needed … we’re better, I think when we’re using our bench and our bench is productive. That’s the way the team is built and that’s the way we’ve been coaching them all year long and when it doesn’t happen, it throws a monkey wrench in what we’re – we usually come out with a loss.

Since we didn’t get Mbakwe on Selection Sunday, a few of his thoughts on making the tournament and UCLA:

Getting chosen by the NCAA selection committee): “It feels great. It’s a sigh of relief. It makes you nervous waiting for your name to be called. But we’re excited for another opportunity. Grateful for it. It’s some fresh air.”

(On the matchup): “I think we have a good matchup with UCLA. Have to out and try to play the way we were in the beginning of the season – tough and physical. I think we have a good chance of winning. UCLA is a very talented team and they score a lot. One of our weaknesses is transition defense so we’ve been working on that a lot lately. It’s nice to get out of the Big Ten grind and low-scoring affairs, maybe get a chance to get out in transition more because that’s when we’re at our best, not settling for half-court offense. End of the game is going to be based on who defends the best.”

(On the hype surrounding the team, with many picking the Gophers to upset UCLA in the first round and go even further): “It says a lot. Being an 11th seed, having people still high on you, especially after the letdown we had as a team. Obviously, coming in we wanted to be a higher seed, but it says a lot that we can’t put too much into it. Obviously UCLA is hearing the same thing—they’re hearing that they’re one of the teams that could be upset and they’re going to take that as material and they’re going to fight.”

(On how the grind of the Big Ten has prepared the Gophers for the NCAA tournament): “We played one of the toughest schedules. We play the Indianas, the Michigans, the Wisconsins of the world, so we know what it takes to win tough games. We know what it feels like … I think the Big Ten definitely prepared us for this situation and it’s nice to finally get out of the Big Ten and play some fresh, some new teams that you’re not very familiar with. And I think it will definitely be good for us.”





Minnesota 16 FINAL
Buffalo 17
Atlanta 7 FINAL
Baltimore 29
Tennessee 17 FINAL
Washington 19
Seattle 26 FINAL
St. Louis 28
Cleveland 6 FINAL
Jacksonville 24
Cincinnati 0 FINAL
Indianapolis 27
Miami 27 FINAL
Chicago 14
New Orleans 23 FINAL
Detroit 24
Carolina 17 FINAL
Green Bay 38
Kansas City 23 FINAL
San Diego 20
Arizona 24 FINAL
Oakland 13
NY Giants 21 FINAL
Dallas 31
San Francisco 17 FINAL
Denver 42
Houston 7:30 PM
San Diego 10/23/14 7:25 PM
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Boston 95 FINAL
Brooklyn 90
Minnesota 112 FINAL
Oklahoma City 94
Golden State 83 FINAL
Houston 90
Charlotte 96 FINAL
Chicago 101
Utah 91 FINAL
LA Lakers 98
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
San Jose 0 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Calgary 4 FINAL
Winnipeg 1
St. Louis 0 FINAL
Anaheim 3
TX-San Antonio 20 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 27
Syracuse 30 FINAL
Wake Forest 7
Purdue 38 FINAL
Minnesota 39
Western Ky 38 FINAL
Fla Atlantic 45
(12) Baylor 27 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 41
(11) Kansas State 31 FINAL
(17) Oklahoma 30
Iowa 31 FINAL
Maryland 38
So Florida 38 FINAL
Tulsa 30
Tulane 13 FINAL
UCF 20
Virginia 13 FINAL
Duke 20
Akron 20 FINAL
Ohio U 23
Western Mich 26 FINAL
Bowling Green 14
Eastern Mich 14 FINAL
Massachusetts 36
Appalachian St 53 FINAL
Troy 14
(25) UCLA 36 FINAL
California 34
Texas A&M 0 FINAL
(4) Alabama 59
Army 17 FINAL
Kent State 39
Kansas 21 FINAL
Texas Tech 34
Middle Tennessee 34
Rutgers 17 FINAL
(13) Ohio State 56
(8) Michigan State 56 FINAL
Indiana 17
New Mexico 31 FINAL
Air Force 35
NC State 18 FINAL
Louisville 30
(21) Clemson 17 FINAL
Boston College 13
Ball State 32 FINAL
Central Mich 29
Cincinnati 41 FINAL
(9) Georgia 45 FINAL
Arkansas 32
Oklahoma State 9 FINAL
(10) TCU 42
San Jose St 27 FINAL
Wyoming 20
Miami-Ohio 41 FINAL
Northern Ill 51
New Mexico St 17 FINAL
Idaho 29
Colorado 28 FINAL
(20) USC 56
(23) Marshall 45 FINAL
FIU 13
Southern Miss 30 FINAL
North Texas 20
Georgia Tech 43 FINAL
North Carolina 48
Tennessee 3 FINAL
(3) Ole Miss 34
Utah State 13 FINAL
Colorado State 16
Missouri 42 FINAL
Florida 13
Kentucky 3 FINAL
(24) LSU 41
(16) Nebraska 38 FINAL
Northwestern 17
Georgia State 27 FINAL
South Alabama 30
Washington 20 FINAL
(6) Oregon 45
Iowa State 45 FINAL
Texas 48
(7) Notre Dame 27 FINAL
(2) Florida State 31
Nevada 42 FINAL
BYU 35
Stanford 10 FINAL
(14) Arizona State 26
Hawaii 10 FINAL
San Diego St 20
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
Columbus 3 FINAL
Red Bull New York 1
Seattle 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 2
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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