It's Not Always Who Starts the Game... Two of the Gopher starters (Austin Hollins with 14 and Joe Coleman with 11) reached double figures in scoring, but the story of the night was the Gopher bench. Minnesota's reserves provided 20 of the team's 30 first-half points, and outscored Illinois's bench, 39-9, for the game. Chip Armelin led the way with 14 points, including a career-high three three-pointers, while also adding seven rebounds. Andre Hollins also reached double figures from the bench, with 12 points. He was on the court for the crucial final minutes of the game.
Armelin led the Gopher reserves with 14 points.
Highlight Reel On the stat sheet, these plays will just read as two assists and a block, but Armelin and Elliott Eliason provided some highlight reel-worthy plays in the first half of tonight's game. Illinois's Meyers Leonard appeared to have a fairly easy basket, but Eliason blocked his dunk attempt out of bounds.
Armelin's first assist came on a fast break. Running down the right side, he cupped the ball in his hand and then delivered a behind-the-back pass to Oto Osenieks for the basket. On his second assist, he received a pass on a backdoor cut and then delivered it to Eliason for an alley-oop dunk. That was Eliason's first career dunk. Extra Basketball In Champaign during December, the Golden Gophers fell to Illinois in double overtime, so it seems only fitting that they would earn payback in an extra period. Both of Minnesota's overtime games this year have been against the Fighting Illini. The last Golden Gopher overtime win came against Michigan State in the 2010 Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota defeated the Spartans by a score of 72-67.
The last time the Gophers played two overtime games against the same opponent in a season was 1977. They lost, 66-64, at Purdue on Jan. 15, 1977, and beat the Boilermakers at home on Feb. 24 by a score of 84-78. Incidentally, the Gophers had also played two overtime games against Purdue in 1976.
Gophers Cool Off Tonight's loss to Michigan State snapped the Golden Gophers' three-game win streak. It was also the first time since the loss at Illinois that Minnesota's field goal shooting dipped below 40 percent. The Gophers shot 18-47 (.383) against the Spartans, following their season-best shooting performance against Northwestern (.577).
Williams led the Gophers with 15 points.
Breslin Center Hex Continues The Gophers have struggled against the Spartans in recent years, and that is especially true of road meetings. Minnesota's last official victory in East Lansing was on Feb. 1, 1990. Two more recent Breslin Center wins came during vacated seasons.
Williams Comes Out Firing The score stayed close early in the contest largely because of Rodney Williams. The junior forward scored eight of the Gophers' first 10 points. Minnesota's first six points came on three-pointers by Williams. He made a career-high third three-pointer later on in the game. The last time Williams hit more than one three in a game was in the win at Michigan on Jan. 22, 2011.
Milestone for Izzo With this win over the Gophers, Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo became the fourth coach to reach 400 wins at a Big Ten school. Bob Knight (661 wins at Indiana), Gene Keady (512 at Purdue), and Lou Henson (423 at Illinois) are the other coaches who accomplished that feat. Now in his 17th year with the Spartans, Izzo's career record stands at 400-165.
Julian Welch is in his first season as a Golden Gopher, but he is the oldest member of the team's guard corps. The junior transfer has taken on a leadership role, starting all eight of Minnesota's Big Ten contests so far and averaging 11.5 points in those games. In the video above, Welch talks about being a leader, his California roots, and more.
This week in "Barnstorming," Mike Grimm visits the Williams Arena film room. The radio voice of the Golden Gophers explains the various amenities of the room, which was part of the renovations to the Barn in the 2000s.
Junior forward Rodney Williams is one of the featured individuals on the most recent episode of BTN's documentary series "Big Ten Basketball: The Journey." The episode made its debut during a special Saturday night time, and will re-air Monday at 5:30 p.m. CT. Williams talked about not just his dunks, but also about his all-around game. Trevor Mbakwe also made appearances on the show for the feature. Bonus video from BTN's interview with Williams is embedded above.
Winning Big This 23-point win was the Gophers' most decisive conference win of the season. Minnesota had not defeated a conference opponent by 20 or more points since the 2010 Big Ten Tournament, where the Gophers dominated Purdue, 69-42. Their last regular season Big Ten win by 20 or more was that season, too. They beat Iowa, 88-53 on senior day.
Home Sweet Home Before today, it had been almost a year since Minnesota's last Big Ten victory at Williams Arena. The opponent on Jan. 26, 2011 was Northwestern. Today, the Gophers snapped a seven-game conference home losing streak by defeating the Wildcats again.
Welch's 14 points helped the Gophers to their first home Big Ten win since 2011.
Double Vision While the Gopher bench made meaningful contributions, the starters definitely carried the Gophers in the scoring department today. All five members of the starting lineup scored in double figures, with Joe Coleman (16) leading the way. Coleman is averaging 15.3 points in four games as a starter, and has shot 29-of-35 from the free throw line in those games.
Cold Start for the 'Cats For nearly the first eight minutes of the game, the basket appeared to have a lid on it for Northwestern. The Wildcats started out shooting 0-for-14 before Davide Curletti scored at the 12:11 mark. For the rest of the half, Northwestern shot 9-of-16. The Wildcats ended up at 18-of-55 from the field on the game.
Alumni Day Dozens of Gopher basketball alumni took in the action at Williams Arena today. Randy Chall, a 2004 graduate, started things off by singing the national anthem before the game. Former players, coaches, and managers from each decade going back to the 1950s were honored on the court at halftime.
Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith announced this week that sophomore forward Maurice Walker will redshirt the 2011-12 season. Walker suffered a right knee injury in the Golden Gophers' game against South Dakota State on Dec. 23, 2010, and underwent surgery a little more than a year ago on Jan. 11.
Coming into this season, Walker and the staff were uncertain about whether or not he would play during his true sophomore year. He continued to rehab his knee, and had worked his way back to near full participation in team practices. Walker even suited up for a handful of games.
Walker will be a redshirt sophomore in 2012-13.
"We were just kind of playing it by ear, day by day, to see how my knee was recovering and how it was doing strength-wise," Walker said. "(The trainers and coaches) just don't feel like it's ready yet. They want to wait until I'm 100 percent before I play again."
Walker, who gave the Gophers quality minutes off the bench last season, would have been nice to have this year, especially with senior forward Trevor Mbakwe out with an ACL tear. Smith said that Walker likely would have been ready for the beginning of Big Ten play had he not suffered a minor setback in rehab during November.
But after being forced to tone down the intensity of his workouts for several weeks back in the beginning of non-conference play, Smith said Walker was not close enough to being ready to play until about this point in the season. Already a third of the way through the conference schedule, Walker and the staff felt it would be, as Smith put it, "a waste of a year to play him."
"It's the best thing to do, and I think he has accepted it well," Smith said. "He's working extremely hard with (strength & conditioning coach) Kevin Kocos and (athletic trainer) Roger Schipper."
As for his knee, Walker said, "It feels good right
now, but there are still some strength issues, and still slight pain at times." He has tried to maintain a positive attitude about the rehab process, although it is difficult to just sit and watch. There are times when he wishes he could be on the court, but he has accepted the decision to redshirt.
"I feel like I could help, but there's nothing I can really do about it except for encourage my teammates and try to pick them up," he said.
Mbakwe update: Trevor Mbakwe is also going through the rehab process, for a more recent knee injury suffered in Novemeber. He is enrolled in spring classes and is still cheering on his teammates at games. He has not yet told the coaching staff what he plans to do next year. Mbakwe has the option of petitioning the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility.
"He probably needs (the petition) done now so he can determine what he needs to do," Smith said.
If a sixth year is granted, Mbakwe will still have time to decide whether he wants to accept it or explore his options of a post-collegiate basketball career.
Not everyone can coach a Division I college basketball team, but this week's episode of "Barnstorming with Grimm" gives the rest of us a chance to at least see what a coach's work space looks like. Play-by-play man Mike Grimm goes behind the scenes in Williams Arena to show us the coaches' locker room and head coach Tubby Smith's office. Stick around after the tour for an update on Joe Coleman and the Golden Gophers' upcoming schedule.
As a freshman in 2010-11, Maverick Ahanmisi was thrown into the spotlight after the Golden Gophers' senior point guard, Al Nolen, suffered an ankle injury. The experience he gained last year has helped Ahanmisi to be a bigger contributor as a sophomore. Get to know the Minnesota guard better in this video and Q&A. Ahanmisi talks about his freshman year, his California roots, and more. Q: How important was it for you to gain point guard experience in the Big Ten as a freshman? A: It was very important, because now I know what to expect, and things that I didn't know last year are going to really help me this year throughout the season.
Q: Are you okay with playing both guard positions? A: Definitely. I feel like I can play point guard or shooting guard, whatever Coach would want me to play.
Q: Are there any particular opponents you are looking forward to facing? A: Ohio State. They're always a competitive team. Purdue. Just everybody in the Big Ten, really.
Q: What are some of your favorite drills to do in practice? A: My favorite drill would probably be shooting on the perimeter with the point guards, where Coach splits us up into guards and post moves. We'll start down low and pass it up top, and then we'll curl. First we'll shoot twos, then threes, then fade and curl, and things like that. That's my favorite drill.
Q: Does anyone ever tell you that you have the coolest name on the team? A: Yeah, a lot of people say that all the time, actually. Q: Do you know what you are going to major in yet? A: I'm undecided right now, but it's probably somewhere in business and marketing.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do with your teammates outside of basketball? A: It's been a recurring thing--we always try to find scary movies that come out, and we always go as a team and watch it.
Q: What is the scariest movie you have seen? A: "Paranormal Activity 3."
Q: Did any of your teammates scream? A: Yeah, Andre Ingram screamed.
For the rest of the 2011-12 Gopher basketball season, look for these "Observations from the Game" blog entries.
Joe Coleman led the Gophers with a career-high 23 points Sunday at Penn State.
Minnesota is doing its best to shake off a tough 0-4 start to conference play. For the first time since last January, the Golden Gophers have won consecutive Big Ten contests, putting their record at 2-4. After winning at No. 8 Indiana, Minnesota followed up that success with an 80-66 win at Penn State. The Gophers' last consecutive conference victories came in a string of four between Jan. 13 and 26, 2011: No. 8 Purdue, No. 25 Iowa, at No. 15 Michigan, and No. 16 Northwestern.
This is also the first time in three years that Minnesota has won consecutive road conference games. The Gophers won back-to-back road games against Iowa and No. 17 Wisconsin in January of 2009.
The Joe Coleman Show
In the three games since Tubby Smith inserted him into the starting lineup, Joe Coleman has shown that he belongs there. The freshman has done a good job driving to the basket to score or draw a foul. Coleman carried the Gophers with a career-high 23 points against Penn State, eclipsing the 14-point mark he set in his first career start against Purdue.
His points came in spurts today: Ralph Sampson III found Coleman on the baseline for easy two-pointers on consecutive trips down the floor in the first half. A little later in the half, he scored eight straight points for the Gophers. He added another eight-point streak extending from the end of the first half into the second half.
The free throw line has been important to Coleman's recent success. In today's game, he made an impressive 13-of-14 free throws, not missing until his final attempt of the game. That miss ended his streak of 17 that began during crunch time in the Indiana game. In his three starts so far, Coleman shot 23-for-25 from the line.
Sampson now has 191 career blocks.
Although foul trouble hampered Ralph Sampson III's productivity, he was still able to make a move in the Gopher record book. His five blocks today put him in a tie with Damian Johnson (2006-10) for third place on Minnesota's career blocks list. Johnson finished his career with 191 blocks. Kevin McHale (1977-80) holds the school record with 235.
Close Call? Not This Time
With a double-digit differential today, nail biters among the Gopher and Nittany Lion contingents may have been able to take a break from their habit. Recent games between the two teams have been much closer than this one. Penn State won each of last year's meetings by a score of 66-63. Prior to today's game, the last four meetings in University Park had been decided by no more than five points.