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.”





Kansas City 0 Top 1st Inning
San Francisco 0
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
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Buffalo 2 FINAL
San Jose 1
Boston 1 2nd Prd
Toronto 0
NY Rangers 1 2nd Prd
Montreal 1
New Jersey 0 2nd Prd
Ottawa 0
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 18:01
NY Islanders 3
Detroit 1 2nd Prd 15:19
Philadelphia 0
Chicago 0 1st Prd 19:45
St. Louis 0
Pittsburgh 0 1st Prd 19:44
Nashville 0
Tampa Bay 0 1st Prd 20:00
Minnesota 0
Florida 8:00 PM
Washington 9:00 PM
So Florida 17 FINAL
Cincinnati 34
Troy 13 FINAL
South Alabama 27
Boise State 55
(6) Oregon 59 FINAL
California 41
North Texas 21 FINAL
Rice 41
Arkansas 45
Rutgers 24 FINAL
(16) Nebraska 42
Maryland 7 FINAL
Wisconsin 52
Texas 0 FINAL
(11) Kansas State 23
Minnesota 24 FINAL
Illinois 28
Memphis 48 FINAL
SMU 10
North Carolina 28 FINAL
Virginia 27
San Jose St 31 FINAL
Navy 41
Northern Ill 28 FINAL
Eastern Mich 17
(25) UCLA 40 FINAL
Colorado 37
Akron 21 FINAL
Ball State 35
Massachusetts 35 FINAL
Toledo 42
Ohio U 21 FINAL
Western Mich 42
Ga Southern 69 FINAL
Georgia State 31
Kent State 3 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 10
Oregon State 14 FINAL
Stanford 38
Fla Atlantic 16 FINAL
(23) Marshall 35
Louisiana Tech 31 FINAL
Southern Miss 20
(1) Miss State 45 FINAL
Kentucky 31
Georgia Tech 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 28
(22) West Virginia 34 FINAL
Oklahoma State 10
Texas Tech 27 FINAL
(10) TCU 82
Michigan 11 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 35
Boston College 23 FINAL
Wake Forest 17
Central Mich 20 FINAL
Buffalo 14
Vanderbilt 14 FINAL
Missouri 24
Old Dominion 51 FINAL
Western Ky 66
Utah State 34
Temple 14 4th Qtr 12:20
UCF 34
(15) Arizona 31 3rd Qtr 14:52
Washington St 16
Texas-El Paso 14 2nd Qtr 5:10
TX-San Antonio 0
Wyoming 3 2nd Qtr 9:10
Colorado State 24
Syracuse 3 2nd Qtr 6:27
(21) Clemson 0
Texas State 0 2nd Qtr 5:00
ULM 13
(3) Ole Miss 6 1st Qtr 0:07
(24) LSU 0
(4) Alabama 13 1st Qtr 7:12
Tennessee 0
So Carolina 7 1st Qtr 2:05
(5) Auburn 0
(13) Ohio State 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 9:45 PM
Nevada 10:59 PM
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
(18) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Texas State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
New Mexico St
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
(20) USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(5) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(3) Ole Miss
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(1) Miss State
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(6) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(7) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(15) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(19) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(14) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Seattle 2
Montreal 1
Toronto FC 0 1st Half 25:00
New England 0
Portland 7:30 PM
FC Dallas
Colorado 9:00 PM
Vancouver FC
Montreal 23 FINAL
Ottawa 17
Saskatchewan 27 FINAL
Calgary 40
Hamilton 24 FINAL
Toronto 26
Brt Columbia 7 6:15
Winnipeg 7
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
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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 TBA
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State TBA
Nov 22 - at Nebraska TBA
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin TBA




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