The Gophers’ rebounding attack – led by Trevor Mbakwe – has been widely discussed as the thorn in UCLA’s side. The Bruins’ interior is much weaker, and their effectiveness on the boards ranks just 228th in the nation, while the Gophers sit at No. 8 (and No. 1 in offensive rebounding).
But Trevor Wear, the player who will be in charge of stopping Mbakwe, doesn’t sound concerned.
“We have some pretty good bigs that we have played against in this league, some big teams,” Wear said of the matchup. “Mbakwe, he’s big, he’s going to be a challenge, but if I force him off the block, I don’t think it will pose that big of a problem compared to some of the other guys I played against in the PAC-12.”
Told about the comments afterward in the locker room, Mbakwe just shook his head.
“I don’t need any extra motivation,” he said. “Whatever he has to say, it really doesn’t matter to me. It’s a good chance for me to go out and play against him and his brother. I’m not really putting that much into it, I could care less. Hopefully they don’t trap – that will be the real test to see how they feel about me.”
How fun. Some good old fashioned smack talk as we head into the Gophers first-round game of their first NCAA tournament in three years.
Said Rodney Williams of the comments by Wear:
“We’ll see what he has to say about it after the game tomorrow.”
Some thoughts from UCLA:
Bruins coach Ben Howland on adjusting to life without Jordan Adams (broken foot). He’s moved Kyle Anderson over to small forward after the freshman has spent more of the season at the 4:
“Going into the Oregon game, that was our third game in three days. And we finished our game against Arizona at 8 o’clock the night before and had a game in 24 hours. So there’s not a lot of time in that sort of time period to make a lot of adjustments. We took off Sunday and Monday, so we have had three practices to prepare for this game. And it’s obviously been very helpful because the key guy that it affects is Kyle. Kyle’s played the vast majority of his minutes since November as a four. And now he’s got to come back and play half his minutes minimally as a three. So what he has to do defensively and offensively, transition defense-wise is very different.”
Some other notes from today’s media access:
- It seems bats are something of a problem here in Austin. There is the infamous bat bridge (Congress Street) that two eager cabbies have already told me about. From what they tell me, there are millions of bats living under the thing. And then there was a bat flitting around Frank Erwin Center today as the Gophers were practicing. Andre Hollins was not a fan, especially after he was chased by one. “I don’t mess with bats,” he said to 1500’s Nate Sandell. Good times.
- Speaking of salty comments, Howland was full of them today, lambasting the moderator at the start for having to walk through a chaotic media room.
- Howland said, point blank, that he would be playing seven guys tomorrow – the starting five plus David Wear and Tony Parker – barring injuries. Andre Hollins said the Gophers had talked about pressing more to try and wear the thin group out, but Smith said he thought that might not be the best strategy because of how the Gophers have struggled there recently.
- Were the Bruins to get into foul trouble, Howland said his next move would be to bring in Sooren Derboghosian for a big or Aubrey Williams for a guard.
- Smith had quite the answer when asked if he had found a preference between using a longer bench and a shorter one. He’s tried both at different points this year. “I’ve tried a little bit of everything, haven’t I?” Smith said. “I mean, it’s been up and down. We’ve tried to go with a deep bench, we haven’t been productive. We have gone with a short bench and haven’t been productive … So maybe if I would answer your questions ‘Have I found it?’ No. A hell of a thing to be saying right now, isn’t it.”