Ralph Sampson III "tweaked" his knee in practice earlier this week, Gophers basketball coach Tubby Smith said Wednesday, making his status questionable for Thursday's opening-round game against Northwestern at the Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis.

Sampson has not practiced since injuring his knee Monday, Smith said. The senior was shooting free throws on the court behind Smith as he spoke.

Backup Elliott Eliason is the expected replacement if Sampson is unable to play. The redshirt freshman, averaging 2.5 points and 3.6 rebounds, has started four games this season -- when Sampson dealt with an ankle injury during the nonconference schedule.

Sampson struggled in the second half of the conference season, but he had 12 points and five rebounds on Saturday against Nebraska, which was also Senior Day.

Julian Welch, bothered recently by a hip injury, has been back in practice and is expected to play Thursday, Smith said. He did not say whether the junior guard would start.