December 2012 Archives

Gophers' 2012 Blooper Reel

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The Minnesota women's basketball team has filmed numerous videos in 2012 that have been used during home games, on Gophersports.com and on Twitter and Facebook. The end products use the best shots and are always professionally produced, but the Gophers have a lot more fun with the videos than their fans get to see.

With 2012 coming to a close and 2013 on the horizon, Gophersports.com gives fans an inside look at some of the best bloopers from the year. Check out all of the fun that the team experiences behind the scenes!

Busy Bowl Week Ends, Game Is All That's Left

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Minnesota wrapped up a busy Bowl Week with a team luncheon, interviews, a walk through and a special visit to DePelchin Children's Center today.

Now all that is left is the game.

This morning began with conference calls for head coach Jerry Kill, offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover and defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys. All three spent time on the phone with ESPN's television team of Mark Jones, Brock Huard and Jessica Mendoza. Limegrover was also a guest on 1500 ESPN this morning with Judd Zulgad, while Tracy Claeys joined Tom Pelissero this evening.
Go Gophers! Kill
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Coach Kill addressed the media today at the official Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas press conference.
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Both Minnesota and Texas Tech participated in a team luncheon at the Westin Galleria this afternoon. Coach Kill and players MarQueis Gray, Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper then took part in a press conference for the media who have descended upon Houston.

Once all the questions were asked and answered, the Gophers then traveled to Reliant Stadium for the first time. The facility towers over its predecessor the Astrodome, which was affectionately dubbed as the Eighth Wonder of the World when it was built. The 71,000-seat Reliant Center is a massive structure, which will provide a magnificent backdrop for the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas.

The Houston Texans play their home games at Reliant Center and play on natural grass that is transported in and out of the stadium. However, the bowl game will be staged on synthetic field turf, which was installed yesterday. Minnesota conducted its walk through on the new turf which was entirely green. The facilities staff will spend hours painting yardage markers and end zone graphics onto the field tonight so it is ready for the game.

After the walk through, the Gophers headed over to DePelchin Children's Center, which is the official charity of the bowl. Since 2006, the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas has donated nearly $500,000 to DePelchin and has generated more than $10.2 million in promotional support and publicity.

DePelchin is committed to meeting the needs of children as one of the largest providers of mental health, foster care and adoption services in Texas. Through its clinical expertise and special brand of caring, DePelchin turns lives around, providing a full continuum of care including psychiatric services, counseling, residential treatment, programs for at-risk youths, parent education, foster care and adoption. DePelchin is a not-for-profit organization and gratefully receives its support from individuals, foundations and corporations; government grants and fees; and United Way agencies.

The Gophers then returned to their team hotel where the official 'Sota Social party was being held. Coach Kill spent some time at the festivities doing a KFAN interview and speaking with fans before being whisked off to the bowl's Chariman Dinner this evening.

The team will meet for dinner tonight before departing to their rooms for the evening.   

Minnesota Weather, Gophers Win Rodeo Bowl

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Go Gophers! Philip Nelson
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Quarterback Philip Nelson with an M logo branding iron at the Rodeo Bowl.
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Wednesday began with Minnesota-like weather and ended with a Gopher victory.

Temperatures in the lows 30s greeted the Gophers when they woke up on Dec. 26 in Houston. There was not any snow, but there were gusting winds that brought a slight chill to Minnesota's afternoon practice at nearby St. Thomas High School.

Coach Jerry Kill did not seem to mind the change in temperature, instead focusing on his team and the hospitality of the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas staff.

"It's not too bad," said Kill. "The weather has been good and everybody has treated us tremendously and we've gotten a lot done."

Minnesota officially wrapped up its final on-field bowl practice yesterday. The Gophers will hold a walk-through at Reliant Stadium on Thursday after a team luncheon with Texas Tech.

Kill said he has been pleased with the team's extra practices, especially with regard to some of the younger players on his team and his now mostly-healthy offensive line.

"It's made a difference certainly with our redshirt kids, because we've got an opportunity to evaluate them even more," said Kill. "Some of them have really done a great job and stepped up. It's also given us a chance to get Jon Christenson and Eddie Olsen healthy for the first time."

The Gophers returned to the team hotel after practice and then ventured off to George Ranch Historical Park for the annual Rodeo Bowl organized by the bowl staff. The seven-event competition pitted Minnesota against Texas Tech and allowed the two teams to see each other for the first time.

The Gophers won the Rodeo Bowl 5-2 posting wins in the Offensive Line Touchdown Dance Competition, Rope The Mascot, Chalk Branding, Calf Ribbon Pull and Hay Bale Toss.

Minnesota was awarded a trophy for winning the Rodeo Bowl and sang an enthusiastic version of the Rouser after earning the win. Both teams then enjoyed a hearty barbecue dinner before departing the park and returning to their respective hotels for the night. 

Gopher Basketball Blog: A Peek at Michigan State

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On Dec. 31, the Gophers open up the Big Ten season with #19 Michigan State at Williams Arena. In preparation for the conference opener, Gophersports.com basketball beat writer Jeff Fett will be doing previews of each of the teams in the conference.

Michigan State Spartans 

Head Coach: Tom Izzo (Northern Michigan, '77)
Record: 423-171 (18th season)
 

2012-13 Record: 11-2
2011-12 B1G Record:
13-5

Leading Scorers: Keith Appling-14.9 ppg; Gary Harris-12.4 ppg; Branden Dawson-9.8 ppg; Derrick Nix-8.8 ppg; Adreian Payne-8.7 ppg.    

Leading Rebounders: Nix-7.8 rpg; Payne-7.5 rpg; Dawson-6.2 rpg; Denzel Valentine-4.2 rpg; Appling-3.5 rpg. 

Notable non-conference wins: Kansas, Texas 

Notable non-conference losses: Connecticut, Miami (Fla.) 

Outlook: 

Michigan State has all of the tools to contend for yet another Big Ten title this season, and should be in the mix to make its usual run in the NCAA tournament. 

There is no question this team has talent. It's backcourt combination of Keith Appling and Gary Harris has been a strong point of the team so far. They are two of the team's leading scorers and know how to find the team's low post scorers as well.

Down in the post, Branden Dawson is back from an ACL injury and is playing well. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne have also provided a formidable frontcourt. Nix is the reigning Big Ten Conference Player of the Week after his 25-point and 11-rebound performance against Texas. 

The Spartans have also shown that they are also deep, having used a nine-man rotation this season. 

Last season, All-American Draymond Green led the Spartans, for the most part night in and night out. One question for Michigan State entering the season was if it could find someone to take his role. Is that Appling or someone else? I think that is still up for debate. 

The Spartans have made 15-straight NCAA appearances so a 16th is almost a certainty.

Gophers Celebrate Holidays In Houston

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Go Gophers! Ra'Shede Hageman
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Ra'Shede Hageman at Minnesota's Christmas Day practice.
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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

The Gophers celebrated the holiday with a quick, up-tempo practice at nearby St. Thomas High School this afternoon. After practice coach Kill, MarQueis Gray and numerous Gophers who hail from Texas did the media rounds and talked with reporters from the Houston Chronicle and Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

After practice the players were treated to a Texas-style barbecue of burgers, polish sausage and hot dogs. The Minnesota staff, led by Athletics Director Norwood Teague, grilled up the snack for the players during practice on a state-of-the-art grill dubbed by the St. Thomas staff as the "Holy Smoker."

The players now have a few hours of personal time before gathering for a team dinner at the hotel. After the dinner the players will head to a local theater and take in a movie.

Bowl week really begins to ramp up tomorrow as the Minnesota band and spirit squad travel to Houston in the afternoon. The Gophers will also practice at St. Thomas tomorrow afternoon before participating against Texas Tech in the annual Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas Rodeo Bowl.

The Rodeo Bowl is held outside of Houston at the George Ranch Historical Park and pits the two teams against one another in a series of events. The winner of the rodeo bowl has always gone on to win the actual bowl game as well.

Sunday Filled With Football, Food And Bowling

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Sunday was action-packed for coach Kill and his Gophers.

As player breakfast was wrapping up and meetings were about to begin, coach Kill left the team hotel at 10:30 a.m. to head over to Reliant Stadium where he, along with Texas Tech interim coach Chris Thomsen, served as honorary captains for the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans game. The two coaches participated in the coin toss in a game that Minnesota won 23-6.

Upon arriving at the stadium, coach stopped and chatted with Greg Coleman of the Vikings Radio Network and then talked with local Houston media.

"It is a privilege," said Kill of participating in the coin toss. "They are a great organization and I know a lot of people there. Coach Frazier and the job he has done is tremendous. I know a few people on the other side of the ball as well, so it is a great privilege for me to do that and me a part of it."

Kill watched the opening kickoff from the sideline, but was off the field before the first snap of the game had even happened. From there it was back in the car and back to the hotel to help wrap up some meetings and get ready for practice.

The Gophers then loaded up four buses and left for nearby St. Thomas High School at 1:45 p.m. for practice. Minnesota ran through drills for a little more than an hour and then was treated to a post-practice snack of Popeyes chicken (a favorite among the 13 Texans on the Gopher roster).

The buses were then loaded back up and the team went back to the hotel to relax. Coach Kill has said that part of the challenge in being gone for a week during a bowl game is finding a good balance between football activities and non-football activities.

"I think you have to balance it out," said Kill. "When we are concentrating on football, we need to focus on football. But at the same time you have to enjoy the bowl experience and have fun because that is all a part of it. We need to do a good job with a young team making sure we balance that out."

To help achieve that balance, the team went to Lucky Strike Lanes for food, bowling and bonding tonight before returning to the practice field tomorrow.

Kill: "It is a privilege for us to be here in Houston"

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The Minnesota Golden Gophers traveled to Houston yesterday evening in preparation for the Dec. 28 Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. The Gophers will face Texas Tech in their first bowl game since 2009, but before that happens Minnesota will practice five times at a local high school and will participate in numerous bowl activities.

Upon arrival, the Gophers received a police escort from the Harris County Sheriff's Department and were greeted at their team hotel with a red carpet welcome which included a Texas drumline.

"It is fantastic," said coach Jerry Kill. "This is what you work for. Our kids are excited and it is a privilege for us to be here in Houston."

The Gophers quickly found the team hospitality room at the hotel, which features 15 large TVs with multiple gaming systems and numerous other games and activities. Coach Kill then led a short team meeting, which ended around 10 p.m.

Today, coach Kill will serve as an honorary captain at the Minnesota Vikings and Houston Texans game and will participate in the official coin toss.  

"The Vikings are a great organization and I know a lot of people there," said Kill. "Coach Frazier and the job he has done is tremendous. I know a few people on the other side of the ball as well, so it is a great privilege for me to do that and me a part of it."

After the coin toss Kill will then depart Reliant Stadium and lead his charges through its first practice in Houston.

"We will get started and have a short practice," said Kill, who paced Minnesota through 10 efficient practices at the team complex during the last couple of weeks. "Then we will gradually cut back as we go and make sure we have fresh legs and have our shoulders and are ready to play on Friday."

Before the Gophers and Red Raiders battle on the field, they will participate in numerous bowl events, which includes the Rodeo Bowl on Dec. 26. The winner of the Rodeo Bowl has also gone on to win every Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas. For coach Kill, he is looking forward to seeing his young team in a non-football environment as well.

"I have always said that is the greatest thing about going to a bowl game, all the experiences and all the relationships you are going to build here in Houston," said Kill. "I know our kids are excited about the events. We are looking forward to being in Houston and having a lot of fun."

So there is a lot of fun and football to be had in the next couple of days, but Kill said his message to the team about this week has been clear.  

"I am excited for our seniors," said Kill. "They have gone through a lot and I am so happy for them. And our underclassmen, we are a very young team. I told them that we need to come down to Houston and play hard and represent the state of Minnesota and college football the way it is supposed to be."

Gopher Hockey Q&A: Erik Haula

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Go Gophers! TopTenGo Gophers!Erik Haula  Go Gophers!
Didn't have a chance to read Erik Haula's Q&A in our game program for the Omaha series? No worries, check it out now. We talked to Haula about recently being named an alternate captain, coming from Finland and growing up with a dad who coached football. 

You were named an alternate captain earlier this season. How much does earning an honor like that mean to you?
"It means a lot. When I came here as a freshman, I knew that I wanted to become a leader with this team on and off the ice. I've been waiting for this opportunity, and I'm excited and proud to finally have it."  
 
As a sophomore last season you led the Gophers in scoring, and you're on pace for even more points this season. What is the biggest factor to your fast start this season?
"I think it is just being comfortable with the team. We have a lot of the guys back from last year, and I'm playing with the same guys and the same power play. I practice with good guys, and that helps me get comfortable."
 
You were able to make a major impact when you first entered the program as a freshman. What made you so effective?
"I got off pretty good start to the season, but I had a slump which I feel is common with freshmen. I feel like playing at the World Juniors helped a lot. I had a variety of competition levels, playing at Shattuck, the USHL, and in Finland."
 
When did you first hear about Minnesota hockey? Was it back in Finland or when you arrived at Shattuck-St. Mary's?
"I heard about college hockey in Finland. When I really started to look into it I was in Minnesota. When I went to Shattuck-St. Mary's, one of my good buddies grew up in Minnesota, and he gave me the 2002 championship video that they made. That was the first time I really got into Minnesota hockey."
 
How does your family follow your games back In Finland? Are they able to get over to Minnesota to see you play?
"They watch the live streams when they are available, and the highlight videos after the game. They make it here twice a year. My dad was here for the Wisconsin games, and my mom was here a few weeks ago."
 
What is the one thing from Finland you wish was in Minnesota?
"Finnish chocolate. My parents do a pretty good job of bringing me that stuff, it is really good. Other then that, there isn't one think I really miss except for friends and family."
 
Is there one place you can't wait to visit when you get a chance to go back to Finland?
 "It is really just going home and staying in the bed where I grew up. All I can think about when I go home is hanging out with siblings and friends."
 
They are a lot of people in the Twin Cites with Finnish decent. Do you hang out with people from Finland while you are in Minnesota?
"I have stayed in contact with Mikael Granlund a lot now that he came over here. We grab dinner here and there when he comes to Minnesota. It is always fun to hang out with a fellow Finn. Especially knowing that he has a pretty good shot of playing with the Wild. It is nice to talk about those things with him."
 
You were drafted in 2009 by the Minnesota Wild. Does playing in Minnesota help you follow the Wild?
"Being in the same city as the team helps you get the vibe of how they are doing from the people of Minnesota. Also, you can watch the games. They are all televised on FOX Sports North. It helps a lot with staying in contact with the team."
 
Your father coached American Football in Finland. Did the Americans on the team help you become familiar with college in America?
I lived with American guys who went to college. When I talked to them about it they said only positive things about it. It just enhanced the fact that I wanted to come here."
 
You are a big New England Patriots fan, what is the biggest reason for why you root for them?
"I am a Patriots fan because of Tom Brady. I would say he is one of my favorite athletes. I always admired the way he came from being a late draft pick and worked his way up to being an elite quarterback. I also love the Vikings. I have been here so long, and all of my roommates are Vikings fans."

Gophers Deliver Holiday Cheer

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After spending the afternoon shopping for gifts at Target on Tuesday, members of the University of Minnesota women's basketball team delivered packages and holiday cheer to two local families in need on Thursday afternoon.

The Gophers' first stop was in St. Paul, where they were greeted by the family with smiles and joyful tears. Members of the team passed out the gifts and looked on with excitement as each member of the family opened their presents.

After a group photo, the Gophers loaded back into their vehicles and headed to Minneapolis to deliver gifts to their second family. In a special twist, the mother of the three children of the family kept the Gophers' appearance a secret, and were they ever surprised! The four members of the family each opened their gifts and concluded the visit with a photo with the team.

It was so amazing to see the Gophers deliver holiday cheer to these families, and I definitely think that it reminds all of us of the true meaning of the holiday season.

Happy Holidays to your and yours from all of us at Gopher women's basketball!
 

 

Gophers Shop for Families in Need

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On Tuesday afternoon, every member of the University of Minnesota women's basketball program headed to Target to do some holiday shopping. Like a large majority of shoppers in the store, the Golden Gophers were checking items off of their lists and checking them twice, making sure they picked up everything they had anticipated upon arrival. The catch, however, was the team was picking out items for two local families in need this holiday season.

Go Gophers! jackie johnson
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The Gophers adopted the two families through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities with plans of making their holiday extra special and one that they wouldn't soon forget. Each member of the team walked through the store and carefully and thoughtfully selected items for the families, knowing how much their selections would mean to each person they were buying for. 

Though the gesture itself is incredible, what makes it even more remarkable is the fact that the money used to pay for the gifts was donated by each of the players, along with members of the coaching staff and support staff. Some amazing fans also pitched in for the worthy cause.

The Gophers returned to Williams Arena following their shopping trip to wrap each gift, and will be giving the gifts to the families at their homes on Thursday, Dec. 20, between 3:00-5:00 p.m.

 

    

Strength Vs. Strength In Meineke Car Care Bowl

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Go Gophers! Michael Carter
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Michael Carter has two interceptions and 14 pass breakups this year.
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The Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas should feature strength versus strength, when the Minnesota pass defense does battle against the potent air attack of Texas Tech.

Minnesota has allowed only one 300-yard passer this year (Nebraska's Taylor Martinez passed for 308 yards on Nov. 17) and ranks 11th in the nation in pass defense (178.50 yards per game). The Gophers are 20th nationally in pass efficiency defense at 111.95 and 29th in total defense, allowing 352.75 yards per game.

The Red Raiders rank second in the nation in passing (361.92 yards-per-game), 12th in total offense (501.42 yards-per-game) and 16th in scoring (37.73 points-per-game). Their offense is led by senior quarterback Seth Doege, who ranks fourth in the nation in passing (3,934 yards) and second in touchdowns (38). Doege has passed for more than 300 yards in nine games this year. Darrin Moore and Eric Ward provide Doege with sure-handed targets. Moore has caught 81 passes for 948 yards and 13 touchdowns, while Ward has 75 catches for 974 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Senior cornerbacks Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire are sure to see a lot of Moore and Ward in Houston. Carter has 14 pass breakups, which places him tied for fourth all-time in one season in program history with Traye Simmons (2008). He is four breakups shy of school single-season record-holder Willie Middlebrooks, who had 18 in 1999.

Carter should get plenty of opportunities to increase his season total in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, as Texas Tech passes the ball an average of 45 times a game (they have completed more passes than their opponents have attempted this year).

Earlier this season, Carter tied a Minnesota single-game record (Michael Lehan vs. Michigan State on Oct. 19, 2001) when he had six pass breakups against Purdue. Carter also has two interceptions this year, which includes an interception return for a touchdown against the Boilermakers.

Stoudermire has broken up three passes this year, has 3.5 tackles-for-loss and leads the team in tackles (78) and solo tackles (56).

Gophers Giving Back over Break

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With fall semester classes coming to close, members of the Minnesota women's basketball team will take advantage of their free time over winter break by giving back to families and children in need in the Twin Cities community. In the weeks ahead, the Golden Gophers will be volunteering their time at Feed my Starving Children and the Minneapolis Children's Hospital, and have also adopted two families through Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities for the holiday season.

Members of the team will take the families' holiday wish lists to Target on Tuesday, Dec. 18, to buy gifts and will then deliver those gifts to the families before Christmas.

After spending time with their own families over the holidays, the Gophers will get back to work on Tuesday, Jan. 8, hand-packing meals specifically formulated for malnourished children that will be shipped to nearly 70 countries around the world at Feed my Starving Children in Eagan, Minn.

The Gophers are also set to visit children at the Minneapolis Children's Hospital on Monday, Jan. 14.

Below you will find a schedule of events in which the Gophers are set to participate:

Tuesday, December 18th: Shop for families though Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Greater Twin Cities
Tuesday, January 8th
: Volunteer at Feed My Starving Children in Eagan, Minn.   
Monday, January 14th: Visit the Minneapolis Children's Hospital   

Gopher Ground Game Will Be Key In Texas

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Go Gophers! Donnell Kirkwood
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Donnell Kirkwood has rushed for 849 yards this year, which includes three 100-yard rushing games.
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The Gophers will participate in their 15th bowl game when they play Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 28. Minnesota has had a 100-yard rusher in seven of its previous 14 bowl games. The Gophers have had eight 100-yard rushers in bowl history, as both Marion Barber III and Laurence Maroney topped 100 yards in a win against Alabama in the 2004 Music City Bowl.

Tellis Redmond owns the school record for rushing in a bowl game, as he rumbled for 246 yards against N.C. State in the 2000 MicronPC Bowl.

Coach Jerry Kill has said numerous times that he wants to have a team that can establish the run, so fans should keep an eye on Donnell Kirkwood and Rodrick Williams on Dec. 28.

Kirkwood has carried the ball 199 times this year for 849 yards. He has three 100-yard games this season and also added 99 yards against Syracuse. The Gophers are 4-0 in those games and 6-1 when he rushes for more than 70 yards (rushed for 73 yards in 21-13 loss vs. Northwestern). Kirkwood is the first Gopher running back to rush for more than 800 yards in a season since Amir Pinnix did so in 2006.

Williams made his collegiate debut against Northwestern and has played in the final seven games of the season. The true freshman has rushed for 201 yards on 45 carries and Minnesota is 2-0 when he rushes for more than 40 yards.

Another Gopher who is sure to have the ball in his hands in Houston is wide receiver/quarterback MarQueis Gray. The senior has five career 100-yard rushing games and Minnesota is 3-2 when Gray hits the century mark.

Most Yards Rushed For By A Gopher In A Bowl Game
246 Tellis Redmond vs. N.C. State (2000 MicronPC)
187 Marion Barber III vs. Alabama (2004 Music City)
179 Amir Pinnix vs. Texas Tech (2006 Insight)
136 Darrell Thompson vs. Tennessee (1986 Liberty)
131 Laurence Maroney vs. Oregon (2003 Sun)
109 Laurence Maroney vs. Virginia (2005 Music City)
105 Laurence Maroney vs. Alabama (2004 Music City)
100 Thomas Tapeh vs. Arkansas (2002 Music City)

Hoops Blog: Ten Days of Holiday Giving

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The Gopher men's basketball team will participate in a number of charitable activities in the community this holiday season.
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University of Minnesota Men's Basketball coach Tubby Smith always stresses to his players that giving back to the community is extremely important. The basketball players, as well as all of the Golden Gopher student athletes, are heavily involved in the community thanks to programs headed up by  Peyton Owens and Anissa Lightner in the Student-Athlete Affairs office here at the "U'.

Aside from that, Coach Smith, and the Tubby Smith Foundation, makes sure that giving back during the holiday season becomes a priority. This holiday season's theme will be "Ten Days of Holiday Giving". The schedule is below:

Day 1: Thursday, Dec. 13 - Donation of books to the Stillwater Public Library and its Holiday Children's Book Drive.

Day 2: Friday, Dec. 14 - Donation of children's winter jackets to the Minneapolis Salvation Army.

Day 3: Saturday, Dec. 15 - Donation of children's clothing for the Sabathani Community Center.

Day 4: Sunday, Dec. 16 - Donation of critical nursery needs to the Greater Minneapolis, Crises Nursery.

Day 5: Monday, Dec. 17 - Donation of children's clothing to Neighbors, Inc. as part of the Love Your Neighbor Holiday Program.

Day 6: Tuesday, Dec. 18 - Donation of children's clothing and baby supplies to People Serving People through the Holiday Helpers program.

Day 7: Wednesday, Dec. 19 - Donation of toys to KARE-11's Toys-4-Tots program.

Day 8: Thursday, Dec. 20 - Holiday shopping at Target for clothing for families of East Side Neighborhood Services.

Day 9: Friday, Dec. 21 - Donation of Wii video games to children at Amplatz Children's Hospital.

Day 10: Saturday, Dec. 22 - Donation of Self Care & Bath Kits to the Harriet Tubman Center.

The Tubby Smith Foundation's mission is to be a resource for children and charities that benefit children in the State of Minnesota, who demonstrate a need for financial assistance to improve their physical, mental, educational or overall well-being.

Freshman Faceoff: Ryan Coyne

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Go Gophers!Ryan Coyne
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With the Gophers off until the end of December, we're bringing back our Freshman Faceoff series. Get to know each of this year's newcomers including this week's featured freshman -- goaltender Ryan Coyne. 

Ryan Coyne finished a standout career at Maple Grove High School in 2010-2011. His senior season he posted a 1.72 goals against average and a .923 save percentage collecting a 20-4-2 record. He spent last season playing in the North American Hockey League where he was challenged because of a set of injuries. We caught up with Coyne earlier this season for this week's Freshman Faceoff. 

What does it feel like to be a Golden Gopher?
"It is a great feeling to know I am playing for a team that I have looked up to. I have been a Gopher fan my entire life. Ever since I was a kid, I dreamed of playing for this team. It is a good feeling to say I accomplished that."

Since you have been a lifelong fan of the Gophers, what is your best childhood memory?
"I remember when they won both national championships in the early 2000s. I was watching on TV. I remember running around at my buddy's house and screaming with them. It was a lot of fun."

What do like best about being a goalie?
"I like playing goalie because, even though hockey is a team sport, you are kind of on your own back there. You control what you and the team do. I like having that responsibility and pressure."

How have you developed since finishing a very successful career at Maple Grove in 2010-11?
"I learned a lot of life lessons. I learned you need to do what needs to be done if you want to get where you want to be. I learned a lot when it comes to work ethic and competitiveness. You really have to love what you do and do everything in your power to get better at it."

What do you think is the biggest asset you have when you are in between the pipes?
"My size and my mobility. I play very positional to get in the right spots to make the save. I also use my size to cut down angles."

Is there an NHL goalie you like to model your game after?
"I have been watching Niklas Backstrom a lot because I have been going to a lot of Wild games. I get some inspiration watching him play."

What is your favorite activity when you need to get away from the rink?
"I like to spend a lot of time with my buddies playing NHL 12 (videogame) waiting to get NHL 13. All of my buddies are in to baseball, so I will occasionally go and toss a ball around with them. I also love to golf. I have been a big golfer my whole life and it is something my family likes to do together."

How has the adjustment to taking college classes gone for you?
"It has been going pretty well. I took a couple classes last year, so I was a little used to the routine. Since the semester started, I am doing fine in making the adjustment."

Gophers Meet the Media: Colorado College

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The Gophers met with the media Wednesday afternoon to discuss this weekend's trip to Colorado Springs, Colo. to take on the Colorado College Tigers.

The Tigers boast an impressive offense for the Gophers' defense to contend with. Freshman defenseman Mike Reilly understands the challenge at hand.

"(Colorado College) has a really good offense. We are obviously going to have to play some good (defense). They like to cycle the puck, and I think their defensemen are active in the rush as well."

Fellow freshman defenseman Brady Skjei added more perspective on the matchup.

"They are the highest scoring team in the WCHA so we will have to look out for that. They have also given up the most goals. It will be an up-and-down game and hopefully we can come out on top."

Head coach Don Lucia said this style of play is nothing new for the Colorado College program.

"(Colorado College) is always a good transition team. They are always speedy with good skill up front. They have some defensemen who have been involved and scored a lot of goals."

Lucia went on to say the key to stopping the Tigers high-powered attack is playing to the Gophers' strengths, "Our foundation has been defense, goaltending, and specialty teams. That has to continue, especially since we are on the road."

This weekend is the Gophers' last scheduled trip to Colorado Springs with both teams set to leave the WCHA next season. Lucia, who coached the Tigers from 1993-1999, said this trip has special meaning to him personally.

"When you go to all the different rinks this year I think there is some nostalgia involved, especially at the World Arena. I have nothing but great memories from there. It was one of the best periods of my life."

Other news from the past week includes Brady Skjei and Mike Reilly being named to the USA Preliminary Roster for the World Junior Championships. Both reflected on the honor of representing their country.

"It was one of my goals for sure, having grown up and playing in the (National) Development Program," Skjei said.

Mike Reilly, who represented the USA for the first time at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge in British Columbia, echoed Skjei's words, "I take a lot of pride in playing for my county. I have to work hard and play my game."

Skjei and Reilly will meet up with their USA teammates in a couple of weeks in New York for the training camp.

In the meantime, the Gophers will be in action this weekend at Colorado College. Friday's game is at 8:30 CT and Saturday's contest is at 8:00 CT. Friday's game can been seen on Fox Sports Plus, while Saturday's meeting will be shown on Fox Sports North.

Gopher Volleyball Blog: Pre-Tournament Press Conference

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Purdue University streamed all of the pre-tournament press conferences and will be available at a later date on Gopher All-Access. Below is the full transcription of head coach Hugh McCutcheon's press conference along with team participants Ashley Wittman and Alexandra Palmer.

2012 NCAA Regionals
Pre-Match Press Conference - Minnesota
Mackey Arena, West Lafayette
, Ind.; December 7, 2012

Minnesota Head Coach Hugh McCutcheon

Opening Statement
"We are very happy to be here and obviously excited to be at this phase in the tournament. We think it's a great setup and facilities here at Purdue and so we look forward to a good match tomorrow, so we'll see what will happen from there."

On what goes into stopping a great player like Ariel Turner...
"I'm not sure anyone has figured that out yet. She's probably going to get hers and it's about us taking care of it. Purdue is more than just her, there are a lot of dynamic weapons on the team and so it is about trying to deal with the patterns that they have, so then we can get in our own rhythm and get in some defensive spots so we will have a few points in transition. But she's a handful and a good player and that's what good players do, they score."

On how difficult it is to defend so many offensive players...
"The reason that the Big Ten is such a strong conference right now is because every team has different ways of attacking you. You get used to dealing with balanced offenses, but more importantly it forces the athletes to read the game and make the right choice at the right time. That has always been the most important skill in our sport and our team has gotten better as the season has gone on. Purdue has a great offense and we will do our best to see the game and see the spots to score a few points there."

On the initial expectation of being the new coach at Minnesota...
"The driving factor for me was trying to get a different rhythm to life relative to the fact that we had a couple young children and with the national team we were traveling very extensively around 130-150 days a year with most of the road trips 30 days in a row. My goal in life was to be a dad, not necessarily a coach and I just figured college volleyball was the right way to give a little bit more balance. We don't work any less hard or that it's any less competitive, but I just don't have to raise my kids over Skype. If I go on the road it's three or four days at a time. I don't know how to pack for a three day road trip, but I can pack for a 30 day road trip, no problem. It has been great that my kids and my wife get to be a part of the matches at home considering when I was with the national team we would be playing in other countries for four years. I get to battle in the great conference and train some really good student athletes and human beings, but the family component has certainly been a great addition for me in my life."

On the fact that they have played Purdue before...
"I think it's good. At this point it comes down to execution. None of us want to be working where we get in a situation where we get surprised a lot and when you're playing a conference opponent there's a lot of data. They know us and we know them and we'll go to battle. It is not a negative by any means because at this stage in the tournament everyone is strong. People might infer that on paper we would be favored going into tomorrow's match, but I think it will be evenly matched."

On tinkering with the lineup...
"We were just trying to be a little smoother. Our highs were pretty high and our lows were pretty low and we wanted to be in the middle of the wave. Morgan has done a nice job and if she gets into trouble we know that Lindsey will come in and take over. We just want to be as smooth and consistent as we can be."

Ashley Wittman, Junior Outside Hitter

On the challenges of taking on Purdue another Big Ten team...
"I wouldn't say there are any challenges, but you just have to know that we have played them before in our conference. It's been a while, so both teams have gotten better and worked hard so there is no taking them lightly. We just need to focus on our game and worry about what we are going to do out there on the court tomorrow because in the end we are controlling ourselves."

On the strengths of Purdue and the keys to win...
"One thing that we are going to have to focus on is that Turner will get a lot of sets. That's one thing we have known about Purdue for a couple years now. Otherwise it's working on our game and playing disciplined and focusing on what we do, so then we will be good in the end."

On growing up a Minnesota fan and getting the program back to the higher level that it is known for being...
"It is about carrying on a legacy that past Gophers have done because this program has been great for years and years. We want to continue that legacy and get farther and farther each year and not stay the same.  With McCutcheon coming in he pushes us to get better and better to do the best to our ability."

Alexandra Palmer, Junior Setter
On how playing conference teams prepares for the tournament...

"Playing in the Big Ten is like playing in the championship game every single night we're out on the court. It prepares us ultimately for the outside pressures going into the tournament with the atmosphere and the crowds, so I think we're ready."

On Purdue having the home advantage...
"Ultimately it doesn't, it depends on personal players views and how they feel about home crowds. With us going in and playing, we are going to have a lot of fans coming in combined with the Purdue fan base it is going to be great and a really fun atmosphere to play in."

On the turning point of becoming a better team...
"We were applying what we were learning in practice and were able to not only compete really hard and be able to apply what we were learning in order to get better every single day to get us to where we are now."

 

 

 

 

 



Banham Visits Local Elementary School

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Photo Gallery

Rachel Banham, a member of the Univeristy of Minnesota women's basketball team, recently took time out of her busy schedule to visit with fourth graders from a local elementary school. During her visit, Banham talked about school, basketball and answered any questions that the youngsters had for her on numerous topics.

As most Golden Gopher fans know, Banham prides herself on being a leader on the basketball court, but, as proved by her appearance in that fourth-grade classroom, Banham also strives to be a role model off of the court, as well. Her desire comes from the example her own role models, her parents, set for her as she was growing up.

"A role model is someone people look up to and admire for all of their hard work, positivity and their will to never give up, and for me, that was my parents" Banham said. "They made me who I am today by being amazing parents and police officers. They taught me how to be tough, but loving, and positive, but honest."

Banham was very fortunate to have such great mentors in her young life, and now she is paying it forward to lucky youngsters in the Twin Cities area.

Check out the above video and photo gallery (huge thanks to Jess Lemanski and Danye Guinn!) to see how much love Banham received from the fourth graders!  

   

 

Gophers Tabbed No. 14 in AP Poll

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Go Gophers! Tubby Smith in the huddle
Go Gophers!
This is Minnesota's highest ranking since 2010.
Go Gophers!
At No. 14 in the nation, the Golden Gopher basketball team currently holds its highest AP poll ranking in Tubby Smith's tenure as head coach. Minnesota moved up from the No. 21 slot it was in last week. The Gophers also made their first appearance of the season in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll, checking in at No. 21.

The Gophers (8-1) entered the season outside the top 25, but earned respect of the voters after emerging from the Battle 4 Atlantis--arguably the toughest preseason tournament this year--with two wins and following up with a win at Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Minnesota's highest ranking in the Smith era so far was 13th in the ESPN/USA Today poll on both Nov. 29, 2010, and Dec. 27, 2010.  The Gophers spent 12 straight weeks in the top-25 polls during the 2010-11 seasons.

Instant Analysis: Minnesota 3, Omaha 2

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Quick thoughts from tonight's 3-2 Gopher victory over the Omaha Mavericks.

Gophers Grab a Split

Tonight was the first time in the history of the Gopher-Maverick series that the home team came away victorious. The Gophers responded from last night's disappointing loss with a 3-2 victory. The Gophers record at home is now 5-1-2. The last time the Gophers got swept at home in the regular season was against this same Omaha Mavericks team. The Gophers also ran their record to 3-0 when wearing their gold uniforms tonight.

Got a Quick Start

Minnesota came out with better intensity tonight than they did last night. They used a strong first shift to draw a penalty on Omaha, which the Gophers capitalized on when Mike Reilly found Erik Haula streaking in to the play at the top of the slot. Erik put the puck passed Omaha goalie John Faulkner to give the Gophers a 1-0 just 2:09 into the first period. The Gophers compiled 16 shots on goal in the first period. They had just 21 in the entire game last night. Minnesota would end the night with 33 shots.

Power Play Points Up

The Gophers scored their first two goals on the power play tonight. Erik Haula, who now has a ten-game point streak, scored in the first period and Nick Bjugstad took a pass from Nate Schmidt and rocketed a shot past Omaha goalie john Faulkner in the second. It was the Gophers first game with multiple power-play goals since they score four in Anchorage on November 9th. Minnesota came into the game 14th in the nation on the power play. The Gophers are clicking at over 21%.

Gophers Hold On

Tom Serratore scored his second goal in three games to give the Gophers a 3-0 lead with 17:38 left in the second period. From that point on, the Gophers were able to hold off a spirited attack from the Mavericks. Omaha got their first goal off the stick of Andrej Sustr late in the second period, and the Mavericks made it a one-goal game with 2:02 remaining in the third. Jonnie Searfoss found the back of the net with goaltender Faulkner at the bench for the extra man. The Mavericks pulled goaltender Faulkner again down by one, but the Gophers did a great job under pressure to stave off Omaha and hold on for the one-goal triumph. Serratore's goal would prove to be the game winner.

Good Bye Omaha

Tonight was the last scheduled meeting between the Gophers and Omaha, with both teams leaving the WCHA next season. The rivalry was never given time to develop, but there are good elements for a long-lasting rivalry between the two institutions. Omaha's first two games as a member of the WCHA were at Mariucci Arena, and the Mavericks won both. Add to that the fact that Omaha head coach Dean Blais is a former Gopher player and recruits the state of Minnesota strong. The two teams might meet again at the Red Baron Final Five at the Xcel Center.

Written by University of Minnesota Intern Josh Brennock