Smith Reaches the Century Mark

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With tonight's win over LaSalle, Tubby Smith recorded his 100th victory as head coach of the Golden Gophers. He is the eighth coach in Minnesota history to reach that milestone. Smith's win-loss record now stands at 100-67 with the Gophers, and 487-212 over his 21 seasons as a head coach. Tonight's win also secured his fourth 20-win season in five years at Minnesota.
Go Gophers! Tubby
Go Gophers!
Smith's 100th win was also his first postseason win at Minnesota.
Go Gophers!

Smith was stuck at 97 wins for a while as the Gophers went through a rough patch late in the season, but picked up No. 98 against Nebraska in the regular season finale, then No. 99 over Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament.

Victory No. 100 holds more importance than simply a third digit--this was also Smith's first postseason win in his time at Minnesota. The Gophers lost in the first round of the NIT in 2008 (Smith's first year), and the first round of the NCAA Tournament in both 2009 and 2010.

"I really didn't realize it," Smith said of reaching 100. "You really don't think about that--you're just so involved in the game. I'm really happy to get this win. Whether it's the first one or the 100th, it's always good to get a win."

L.J. Cooke is the school's all-time wins leader at 250-135 over a 28-season Minnesota career that ended in 1924. Most recently before Smith, Dan Monson (1999-2006) joined the 100-win club. His Gopher record was 118-106.

Smith and the Gophers still have an opportunity to add more wins this season. They will have a second round game later this week. Congratulations to Coach Smith!
Strong First Half Finish
After trailing for much of the up-and-down first half, the Gophers went into the locker room with a 40-37 lead. Minnesota ended the half on an 8-0 run. Rodney Williams led the way with 17 points in the first.

Back-to-Back Big Games
For the first time in his career, Rodney Williams posted consecutive 20-point games. He scored an even 20 in the Gophers' loss to Michigan in the Big Ten quarterfinals, and upped that total to 21 tonight, tying a career high. He now has three 20-point games in his career, all this season.

Williams scored some of his points with his patented highlight reel dunks, but also mixed in some mid-range jumpers. The jumpshot has been a focus for him during this season as it was during the offseason, and he showed some improvement in his shooting stroke today. Williams will become even more of a scoring threat next season if he continues to work on his shot, forcing opponents to guard him on the perimeter as well as around the basket.
Go Gophers! Dre
Go Gophers!
Andre Hollins has scored in double figures in five straight games.
Go Gophers!

Gophers in the NIT

This is Minnesota's 14th appearance in the NIT. The Gophers are 19-11--including a championship in 1993--in the tournament during non-vacated seasons. With the vacated games, they are 25-12, including another title in 1998. Their last NIT appearance came in 2008, Tubby Smith's first season at Minnesota, when they lost to Maryland in the first round. Minnesota's last NIT victory came in 2006 against Wake Forest in the first round.

Hollins Hot Streak
With Trevor Mbakwe out for the season, Ralph Sampson III (the only other senior) injured, and just three juniors on the team, the Gophers have needed big contributions from their younger players. Recently, sophomore Austin Hollins and freshman Andre Hollins have been the ones to step up. Andre (13 tonight) scored in double figures the past five games, Austin (16 tonight) in the past four. This five game stretch includes the Big Ten Tournament, where Andre earned all-tournament honors by scoring 46 points in two games.

Smith Reaches the Century Mark

Tonight's win was Tubby Smith's 100th as Minnesota's head coach. He is the eighth Gopher coach to reach triple digits. This was also the 20th win of the season for the Gophers, making this the fourth season in which Smith has guided them to at least 20 wins. More information here.

Freshman Point Guards
Andre Hollins out-dueled Northwestern's Big Ten All-Freshman point guard Dave Sobolewski in yesterday's first round victory. Today he had to face the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in Trey Burke. The two youngsters played virtually the whole game and led their respective teams in scoring. The two guarded each other went back and forth with key points at the end of the game.
Go Gophers! Dre
Go Gophers!
Andre Hollins led the Gophers in scoring in both Big Ten Tournament games.
Go Gophers!

In the end, Burke and his Wolverines came out on top. Burke has been sensational all year, which is why the media selected him as conference rookie of the year. In just the second Big Ten game of the year, Burke scored 27 points against the Gophers. Today, he scored 30.

Hollins played just 14 scoreless minutes in the teams' first meeting, but has come a long way since then. He showed flashes of his talent at times during the early season, and has recently emerged as a more consistent scorer and team leader. Hollins reached double figures in his last four games, including team highs of 25 and 21 points in the last two games. His recent play gives the Gophers good reason to be excited for the future.

Sound Familiar?
For the second time in two days, and the fifth time this season, the Gophers played overtime basketball. This was their first time playing back-to-back overtime contests since the 2003-04 season, and their first time since 1980-81 to play five overtime games in one season. Minnesota is the first team ever to play multiple overtime games in one Big Ten Tournament.

First Half Ups and Downs

The Gophers drew first blood with an Andre Hollins three-pointer, and they continued to build a lead from there. Michigan did not make a field goal until the 13:27 mark. The Gophers led by up to nine points in the first, but the Wolverines' switch to zone defense helped them slow down the Gopher offense. They tied the game for the first time with under two minutes left in the half. Minnesota still went into the locker room with a 23-20 lead after Austin Hollins hit a three.
Hot Start for the Hollins
Minnesota's first 15 points came from a player named Hollins. Andre Hollins scored the first eight before Austin Hollins added a jumper. Andre scored the next five before Chip Armelin broke the all-Hollins scoring streak. During that stretch, Andre was 3-for-3 from three-point range. Andre Hollins finished the first half with 16 points on 6-of-7 shooting, sitting on the bench for the last several minutes with two fouls. For the game, the duo combined for 37 points, including a career-high 25 from Andre.
Go Gophers! EE
Go Gophers!
Eliason set a new career with 10 rebounds.
Go Gophers!

Cleaning Up the Boards
The Gophers out-rebounded the Wildcats, 44-29. Making his fifth career start in place of the injured Ralph Sampson III, redshirt freshman Elliott Eliason set a new career high with 10, bettering the nine-rebound mark he set against USC in December. Joe Coleman and Austin Hollins each added seven.

Rubber Match

A victory today gave Minnesota the 2-1 edge in this year's meetings after the teams split their regular season series. The Gophers won decisively at Williams Arena on Jan. 22, and the Wildcats won at Welsh-Ryan on Feb. 18. Today's match-up was the closest of the three.

Five More Minutes
Missed last shots by both squads sent the game into overtime tied at 61. The Gophers have gone 2-2 in overtime games this season. The last time Minnesota played four overtime games in one season was 1982-83, and the Gophers were 2-2 that year as well.

Three Is the Key

Against Northwestern, a team that relies heavily on three-pointers, the Gophers needed to hit some threes of their own to keep pace. In the end, both teams ended up with identical three-point shooting numbers, going 11-for-26. The Gophers have made 10 or more triples in three games this year, most recently against Nebraska on Saturday. 

Gophers in the Big Ten Tournament
The Gophers are now 8-6 all-time in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, and 13-14 in the tournament overall. They own a 4-2 record against Northwestern in conference tournament play. The Wildcats are Minnesota's most common Big Ten Tournament opponent. Northwestern won last year's first round match-up, and the Gophers won in 2008 and 2009.

Final Vote: Rodney's Best Dunk of the Year

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Go Gophers! Rodney
Go Gophers!
Vote for your favorite Rodney Williams dunk of the year!
Go Gophers!
It's time to vote for your favorite Rodney Williams dunk of the season! Fan voting (click above to watch all ten entries in our countdown) has revealed two clear-cut favorites -- Rodney's epic 360-degree slam against USC last December and his gravity-defying leap against Illinois in the Gophers' late January win.

To spice up the competition, however, we're adding a last-second curveball to the mix -- Rodney's unbelievable one-handed slam against Nebraska this past Saturday at the Barn! Once you watch it (it was ESPN's number one play on their nightly "Top Plays" countdown) you'll understand why we had to make an exception and add this to the competition -- it was a great play!

We'll leave the voting open until Thursday, when the Gophers will take on Northwestern in the Big Ten Tournament. Cast your vote and encourage your friends to do the same -- which one will emerge victorious?

What was Rodney Williams' best dunk of 2011-12?

Observations from Saturday's 81-69 Win Against Nebraska

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Senior Day
Seniors Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe were honored before today's game. The video embedded above was played on the video board. Sampson will leave the University of Minnesota as one of only five players to compile 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, and 150 blocks. His numbers stand at 1,016 points, 630 rebounds, and 203 blocks after today's game. He passed up Larry Mikan, Dick Garmaker, and Jim Brewer to move into 34th place on the scoring list.

Mbakwe posted 19 double-doubles and piled up 327 rebounds (third-best all-time at Minnesota) as a junior last year. In the seven games before his injury this year, he posted four more double-doubles. He may be able to return for a sixth year, but was honored today just in case.

Go Gophers! Ralph Sampson III
Go Gophers!
Sampson scored 12 points on his senior day.
Go Gophers!

Long Distance
On this day during the 25th year of the three-point shot in college basketball, the Golden Gophers and Cornhuskers put on quite a display. The teams shot a combined 23-for-53 from three-point range. In total, four players in today's game made at least four three-pointers. Nebraska's Bo Spencer led the way with a 7-for-12 performance.

At one point in the first half, the Golden Gophers were 7-of-10 from three-point range. Austin Hollins and Chip Armelin each hit a trio of triples before halftime. Armelin made a fourth in the second half for a career high, and Hollins also added one more. For the game, Austin Hollins, Andre Hollins, and Armelin went a combined 10-for-18 from behind the arc. The 10 threes tied a season high. In addition to Spencer for Nebraska, Dylan Talley made four threes.

"It's Called Williams Arena for a Reason"
Those are the words of Big Ten Network play-by-play man Eric Collins after one of Rodney Williams's baskets today. In the first half, Williams dunked right over the Huskers' Brandon Ubel, and posted the highlight, comparing it to a Blake Griffin dunk (linked above). Williams also added an alley-oop from Sampson in the first. Later in the game, he soared in from the second-farthest block for a spectacular, uncontested dunk.

Balanced Scoring Attack
For the second time this season, Minnesota saw five of its players reach double figures in the scoring column. Armelin's career high tally of 20 points led the way, with Williams (16), Austin Holins (13), Andre Hollins (12), and Sampson (12) joining in. The last time five Gophers scored in double digits was the win over Northwestern on Jan. 22.

May I Be of Assistance?
The Gophers assisted their teammates on 23 of 26 field goals today. Minnesota dished out a season-high 24 assists against Central Michigan on Dec. 13, but today's total is a new Big Ten season high. Andre Hollins led the team with six.

Barnstorming with Grimm: The Locker Room

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Even if you have been to dozens of Gopher games and explored the various nooks and crannies of venerable Williams Arena, there is a good chance you have not ventured into this week's "Barnstorming" destination. The locker room is usually reserved for the team, and sometimes special guests like former players. Radio play-by-play man Mike Grimm got special access to show us this special place in the Barn. Watch the video to see what he saw!

Part Two: Rodney Williams Best Dunks of 2011-12

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Go Gophers! Rodney
Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!
Time for Part Two of our "Rodney Williams Best Dunks of 2011-12" poll! We revealed the first five dunks in our countdown yesterday (be sure to click here and vote in Part One if you haven't already), and it's time to look at the next five.

Watch the videos below and pick your favorite! The top two vote-getters will square off this weekend right here on the official Gopher Basketball Blog beginning tomorrow night and running through Sunday.

Don't forget -- Rodney's Gophers host Nebraska this Saturday at 11:30 a.m. in the final regular season home game of the year! Click here to get your tickets!

Part Two: Which of these five Rodney Williams dunks is your favorite?

Feature: "Gopher Bloodlines"

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Joe and Dan Coleman used to play pick-up games with their cousin and their uncle Ben. Joe was the youngest and smallest, and his team usually lost. He has come a long way since then. Joe used to have a hard time holding his own on the driveway with Ben and Dan, but now he is competing in the same Williams Arena where his uncle and brother played before him.
Go Gophers! Joe Coleman
Go Gophers!
Joe is the third Coleman to play for the Gophers.
Go Gophers!

The Golden Gophers' freshman guard enrolled at the University of Minnesota in 2011, but his family's history with the team stretches back much farther than that. Before Joe Coleman was born, his uncle Ben earned two varsity letters (1980 and '81) for the Gophers before transferring to Maryland and later playing in the NBA. More recently, Dan ended his college career with 1,317 total points and All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors as a fifth-year senior in 2008.

Joe, Dan's junior by about eight and a half years, spent a lot of time around Gopher basketball during his teen and pre-teen years. Dan sat out his true freshman year after transferring from Boston College following summer classes. He could not travel with the team that season, so Joe sometimes came over to watch the games and spend the night at his brother's place. Joe often tagged along with Dan to practices. He was a little brother not just to Dan, but to all the Gophers.

"Everybody on the team knew me," he said. "I was just that little rascal who was always in the gym."

Because of their age and size differences--at 6-9, Dan has about five inches on Joe--Dan served as more of a role model than a serious one-on-one opponent for Joe in his younger years. It was not until Joe's junior year at Hopkins High School that he was able to compete with his older brother. That season, Joe earned All-State and All-Tournament honors after averaging 24.7 points per game and helping the Royals to a state title.

It was now clear that he had the potential to follow in Ben and Dan's footsteps and play Division I basketball. Despite all the family's Gopher connections, Dan did not pressure Joe to accept head coach Tubby Smith's scholarship offer.

"He didn't try to convince me to go anywhere, actually," Joe said. "He just told me, 'Make the decision on what you want in life, not necessarily what others want. Try to stay focused on what your goals are, but also what you want to do after basketball. Just pick a school off of that.'"
Go Gophers! Dan Coleman
Go Gophers!
Dan Coleman graduated three years before his brother came to the U of M.
Go Gophers!

Coleman, of course, did end up picking the Gophers. He signed his National Letter of Intent during fall of his senior year. He capped off his high school career with another state championship and Minnesota's Mr. Basketball award, an award for which Ben and Dan were once finalists.

When Joe finally donned the maroon and gold, he and his brother swapped roles. This time it was Dan playing the part of spectator. The older Coleman plays professionally in Europe, but he was home in Minnesota during the Gophers' early season.

"It was nice to see him in the stands watching my games," Joe said. "It's unfortunate that I didn't really play that much, so he wasn't able to really see a 'real' game for me."

Unlike Dan, Joe saw limited minutes to begin his freshman season. Dan started 27 games and made the All-Big Ten Freshman Team in 2005. But Ben could relate more to Joe's transition from high school to college. Ben barely played as a Gopher freshman under Jim Dutcher before getting more opportunities as a sophomore. Joe said that while Ben does offer some pointers, he and his uncle had not spoken much about his playing time situation. But Joe did recall the advice Ben gave him in high school.

"He just told me, 'Just keep fighting through. Just be as efficient as you can. Eventually, they're just going to have to put you on the court,'" Joe said.

Joe has earned more playing time over the season. He scored 14 points against Purdue in his first career start, drained some crucial free throws in the win at Indiana, and piled up a career-high 23 points at Penn State. His ability to find seams in the defense was paying off. By that time, Dan was back overseas. He still made sure to check in with his little brother.

"He just said, 'Good game. That's what you're supposed to do,'" Joe said. "He's just happy for me that I was able to get the opportunity to show that I am able to do those things."

Joe recently went through a four-game scoreless streak. Still, he led the team in rebounds in two of those games, and he snapped out of the scoring slump with a 12-point performance at Northwestern. It is all part of the ups and downs of being a freshman in the Big Ten.
Go Gophers! Ben Coleman
Go Gophers!
Ben Coleman played for the Gophers in 1980 and '81.
Go Gophers!

Joe may not catch up to Dan's freshman year numbers, but Dan played under different circumstances--he had the advantage of a redshirt season, and the team needed him to have an immediate impact after the graduation/departure of several starting forwards. Joe is also a different style of player than Dan.

Joe believes he can write his own unique chapter in the Coleman history book if he eventually helps his team to be more successful than Ben and Dan's Gopher teams were. Even while he distinguishes his own game from his relatives' games, Joe Coleman knows that he can count on Ben and Dan for support, and he knows that the three will always be linked in Minnesota basketball history.

"It's a good experience," he said. "Not too many families can say they've had three different generations play at the same school. It's nice to know that. Hopefully it's looked on for years to come."

Rodney Williams' Best Dunks of 2011-12, Part One

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Gopher power forward Rodney Williams has enjoyed a stellar junior season in 2011-12, leading the Gophers in numerous categories, including points (10.7/game), rebounds (5.3), blocks (1.4) and steals (1.4).
Go Gophers! Rodney
Go Gophers!
Go Gophers!

But even in the midst of a good all-around year, anyone who has ever watched Williams play knows he "rises above" his peers in one area in particular: Raw dunking ability. Slam, jam, throw-down, high percentage bucket -- however you want to say it, Rodney does it better than almost anyone else in college basketball.

According to Gopher basketball communications director Matt Slieter's "Dunk-O-Meter," Rodney has amassed 91 dunks during his Gopher career, including a whopping 41 in 2011-12 alone (through Tuesday).

As we near the end of the basketball season, we're asking Gopher fans -- what was your favorite Rodney dunk of 2011-12? We've collected highlights from 10 of Rodney's best, and want YOU to decided the ultimate champion. We'll reveal five dunks today (Wednesday, Feb. 29), five more tomorrow (Thursday, March 1) and then pit the top two vote-getters against each other Friday and Saturday (March 2-3), and announce our winner on Sunday (March 4).

So watch the videos and vote for your favorite, and be sure to check back tomorrow for the next round of voting!

Which of these five Rodney Williams dunks is your favorite?


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