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 frontcourt has been a surprising bright spot through three Big Ten games

Posted by: Amelia Rayno Updated: January 9, 2014 - 10:20 AM

A month ago, who would have ever predicted that the Gophers frontcourt would be a bright spot through the start of the Big Ten schedule. 

But through three games, that fact has been hard to deny.

Understandably, the frontcourt has been viewed as not only a questionmark, but a notable weakness since the beginning of the season on a team in which guards run the show. The crew still has a ways to go with the power forward position, which is basically scrapped together between Joey King, Oto Osenieks and Austin Hollins -- none ideal for the job -- but at the critical center spot, Minnesota has actually thrived.

In the last three games, Elliott Eliason has scored 29 points, blocked 12 shots and added 29 rebounds, while holding Jordan Morgan to three points and two rebounds in the opener and A.J. Hammons to seven points and a single rebound in the Gophers second game against Purdue. 

"It makes you feel really good, it makes you feel really confident going on," Eliason said. "We've played some pretty good big men. Purdue had some good size obviously and Michigan and Horford played really well in that game too. We've got even bigger tests in these next few games, so confidence helps you just play hard."

Last night at Penn State, Ross Travis had a terrific performance, exploding for 18 points and 13 rebounds, but the Nittany Lions didn't get much production from the center spot. Eliason (11 points, 12 rebounds) dominated inside early on to play a huge role in giving the Gophers their initial early lead. And when the Nebraska native rested midway through the second, backup Mo Walker came in and picked up where Eliason left off, effectively scoring at the basket and keeping the early momentum. When the Gophers fell apart, it was no coincidence that they were also failing to continue to pound the ball inside to the big men.

"We just thought that we could control the block area inside," Eliason said. "We knew we could rebound well, and we thought we could score well, me and Mo both attacked pretty well there in the first half."

It was hard to fathom this scenario at the start of the non-conference, when neither player had really claimed the center role, and both were lacking meaningful experience. Despite the power forward concerns, the Gophers have actually rebounded pretty well through three games, averaging 35.6 boards a game in the last three. Ironically, it's been the guards (who have certainly contributed to rebounding) who have struggled offensively early on, with DeAndre Mathieu going through the transition period of becoming a Big Ten player, Austin Hollins going off for 18 points and nine rebounds against Purdue, but practically disappearing against Michigan at at Penn State and Andre Hollins unable to find the same consistent dominance Minnesota got accustomed to a year ago.

Can the Gophers' frontcourt continue the strong stretch against Michigan State? Eliason and Walker have one of the bigger tests of the season, with preseason All-American Adreian Payne -- who is averaging 16.2 points and 7.7 rebounds a game -- on deck.

"It feels like you've got a mountain to climb," Eliason said. "He really is a great player and he does so many things from all over the place, he's not just a low-post guy, he's crashing the boards, he's shooting the three, he's a do-it-all guy for him ... We watched him play against Ohio State [on Tuesday] and he made some big-time plays. He's doing that and he's a little banged up, even. That's a tough assignment."


 

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Denver 28 4th Qtr 4:14
Cincinnati 30
Buffalo 12/28/14 12:00 PM
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Minnesota
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Denver
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Seattle
Cincinnati 12/28/14 7:30 PM
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Denver 82 FINAL
Charlotte 110
Portland 95 FINAL
Houston 110
Utah 97 FINAL
Memphis 91
Toronto 120 FINAL
Chicago 129
Atlanta 105 FINAL
Dallas 102
LA Clippers 118 FINAL
San Antonio 125
Sacramento 43 2nd Qtr 2:55
Golden State 53
Ottawa 1 FINAL
Washington 2
Nashville 5 FINAL
Columbus 1
Pittsburgh 3 FINAL(SO)
Florida 4
Arizona 0 2nd Prd 8:10
Vancouver 4
San Jose 0 2nd Prd 6:40
Anaheim 1
Calgary 0 2nd Prd
Los Angeles 2
Ark-Little Rock 64 FINAL
Bradley 54
Brown 67 FINAL
Central Conn St 55
Stetson 59 FINAL
Florida State 63
Ill-Chicago 46 FINAL
Northwestern 63
Ohio 49 FINAL
George Washington 77
Southern Utah 61 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 70
Elon 67 FINAL
Kennesaw St 65
Dartmouth 49 FINAL
Penn State 69
Green Bay 70 FINAL
UC Irvine 72
DePaul 68 FINAL
Colorado 82
Lewis & Clark 49 FINAL
Portland 71
SC State 59 FINAL
Abilene Christian 65
Manhattan 71 FINAL
Fordham 57
Truett-McConnell 57 FINAL
Ga Southern 90
Citadel 56 FINAL
Michigan State 82
Miami-Ohio 55 FINAL
Ohio State 93
Gardner-Webb 89 FINAL
Purdue 84
Idaho 68 FINAL
Northern Ky 81
Fairfield 66 FINAL
Albany 77
North Dakota St 61 FINAL
Alcorn State 50
UT Martin 37 FINAL
Butler 64
SE Louisiana 65 FINAL
UCF 70
Oakland 60 FINAL
Clemson 70
Florida A&M 57 FINAL
East Carolina 75
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Fla Atlantic 69
IUPU-Ft Wayne 43 FINAL
Illinois State 68
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James Madison 71
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Mount St Marys 69
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Navy 61
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Princeton 65
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Robert Morris 84
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St Bonaventure 80
Colgate 43 FINAL
Syracuse 78
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Temple 77
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Tennessee 64
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VA Commonwealth 84
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Wake Forest 60
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West Virginia 77
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Baylor 70
UAB 67 FINAL
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Iowa 80
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Jackson State 64
Rice 72 FINAL
Lamar 79
Central Mich 89 FINAL
McNeese State 56
Coppin State 56 FINAL
Michigan 72
Furman 76 FINAL
Minnesota 86
SE Missouri St 51 FINAL
Ole Miss 82
Weber State 51 FINAL
Oklahoma 85
Grambling St 39 FINAL
TCU 80
Loyola-Chicago 62 FINAL
Texas Tech 44
Incarnate Word 47 FINAL
Tulsa 76
Penn 50 FINAL
Vanderbilt 79
Chicago State 38 FINAL
SIU Edwardsville 63
Simpson 62 FINAL
Drake 84
Tenn Tech 81 FINAL
UMKC 60
Murray State 83 FINAL
Southern Ill 71
Oral Roberts 45 FINAL
Missouri State 52
Jacksonville St 65 FINAL
Air Force 66
Milwaukee 54 FINAL
Arkansas 84
Wisconsin 68 FINAL
California 56
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
LSU 71
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Marquette 67
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UC Santa Barbara 78 FINAL
Oregon 82
Miami-Florida 62 FINAL
Providence 76
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St Marys-CA 72
Kent State 75 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 78
UC Davis 73 FINAL
Northern Colorado 63
Lewis-Clark State 81 FINAL
Eastern Wash 87
Walla Walla 52 FINAL
Portland State 94
TX A&M-CC 45 2nd Half 12:00
Cal State Fullerton 55
Marshall 36 2nd Half 11:52
Nevada 61
Boise State 31 2nd Half
Houston 22
UC Riverside 8 Delayed 11:29
San Diego St 14
Tulane 20 1st Half 8:44
Washington 17
Loyola Marymount 6 1st Half 10:41
Wichita State 21
Nebraska 12/23/14 12:00 AM
Hawaii
BYU 48 FINAL
Memphis 55
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
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Louisiana Tech
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UCF
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Texas
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Holy Cross 78
Temple 59 FINAL
Villanova 64
Georgia Southern 68 FINAL
Southern U 52
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Kennesaw St 61
Eastern Michigan 52 FINAL
Michigan 81
Brescia 56 FINAL
Marshall 127
(21) West Virginia 54 FINAL
Ohio State 96
UMBC 87 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 78
Cornell 79 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 61
St Bonaventure 70 FINAL
Georgetown 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
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Florida 56
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Texas Southern 69
Butler 72 FINAL
Illinois State 60
UC Davis 59 FINAL
(16) Stanford 71
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Loyola Marymount 60
Sacramento St 94 FINAL
San Jose St 97
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UMKC 58
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IUPU-Ft Wayne 84
Belmont 43 FINAL
(14) Georgia 62
George Mason 83 FINAL
Longwood 61
Kansas 81 FINAL
Creighton 84
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Kansas State 68
UT Martin 65 FINAL
Missouri 74
Hampton 67 FINAL
DePaul 86
Florida State 65 FINAL
Tulane 54
Murray State 44 FINAL
Illinois 64
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Arkansas State 68
BYU 62 FINAL
Utah State 58
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<
Gophers Football 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 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon

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