Armelin, Bench Key to Gophers' 69-61 Win at Nebraska

Go Gophers! Freshman center Elliott Eliason returned to his home state and finished with six points and four rebounds versus the Huskers.
Go Gophers!
Freshman center Elliott Eliason returned to his home state and finished with six points and four rebounds versus the Huskers.
Go Gophers!

Feb. 5, 2012

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LINCOLN, Neb. -- Minnesota shot 67 percent from the field in the second half, and its bench combined to outscore Nebraska's reserves 40-7, as it rallied for a 69-61 win versus the Cornhuskers on Sunday afternoon at the Devaney Center.

Sophomore guard Chip Armelin scored a career-high 15 points, including 10 in the second half, to help the Gophers rally from an eight-point first-half deficit and improve to 17-7 overall and 5-6 in the Big Ten. Nebraska fell to 11-11 overall and 3-8 in the conference. The victory equals Minnesota's 2010-11 total, when it finished 17-14, and improves the Gophers to 47-13 all-time versus Nebraska.

Armelin made 7-of-11 field goals in the game, while adding five rebounds and three assists. He was one of just two Minnesota plyers in double-figures, as junior guard Julian Welch made 3-of-3 three-pointers to finish with 10 points.

But the Gophers had a total of seven players with six or more points, and Minnesota made 14-of-21 second-half field goals to build a double-digit lead on its way to a much-needed road win.

For the game, the Gophers made 27-of-50 (.540) field goals, including 7-of-17 (.412) from beyond the arc. Minnesota also held a 31-24 advantage in rebounding, led by seven boards from freshman guard Joe Coleman.

Senior forward Ralph Sampson III, junior forward Rodney Williams, and freshman guard Andre Hollins each scored eight points for the Gophers, while sophomore guard Maverick Ahanmisi (seven points) and freshman center Elliott Eliason (six points, four rebounds) played key roles off the bench. Eliason, Nebraska's two-time prep player of the year, was making his first collegiate appearance in his home state.

Nebraska jumped out to a 5-0 lead, until Welch sparked a 7-0 run for the Gophers with a three-pointer from the top of the key at the 17:22 mark. A layup by Williams and a tip-in by Sampson gave Minnesota its first lead of the game at 7-5.

But the Gophers' offense went stagnant, scoring just two field goals over the next 6:39, and the Huskers took advantage by going on a 14-4 run to take an eight-point lead, 19-11.

Minnesota switched to its Flex offense and the Gophers responded with three-pointers by Austin Hollins, Welch, and Armelin to pull back in front, 20-19.

After Nebraska scored to pull back into a one-point lead, Eliason worked hard for an offensive rebound, which he converted into a layup while being fouled and then added the free throw for a three-point play.

Andre Hollins opened a 7-2 run for the Gophers by making a trey to give them a 26-24 lead, and Armelin and freshman forward Oto Osenieks added layups to put Minnesota ahead 30-26.

But the Cornhuskers closed the half with a 7-2 run of their own to take a 33-32 lead at the half. Osenieks drove to the basket and dunked to give the Gophers a 32-30 edge with five seconds remaining, but Caleb Walker beat the buzzer with a three to send Nebraska to the locker room with the one-point lead.

After Nebraska opened the second half with a field goal to stretch its lead to 35-32, Minnesota answered with a 5-0 run to re-take a 37-35 edge. Williams fought his way underneath for a layup and Welch knocked down his third trifecta of the afternoon to put the Gophers up by two.

Minnesota missed an opportunity to build its lead, though, as it remained just a two-point edge during a five-minute, 21-second scoreless stretch for the Huskers.

With the game tied at 39-39, Williams dived for a loose ball at Nebraska's end of the court, then passed ahead to Ahanmisi, who drove for a layup and an eventual three-point play.

On its next possession, the extra effort by the Gophers paid off again, as Eliason ran down a missed trey by Andre Hollins near the top of the key, and passed to the freshman guard who didn't miss his second attempt.

The Gophers stretched their lead to nine points, 48-39, as Eliason made a free throw and Armelin drove the length of the court and sliced right through the Nebraska defense for an uncontested layup.

Nebraska finally ended its second lengthy scoreless stretch -- this one lasting 5:48 -- by making a three as part of a 5-2 run to pull within six points at 50-44.

But Armelin scored his third-straight layup, Sampson made a short jumper in the lane, and Ahanmisi took a sweet through-the-legs pass from Armelin to score on a fast break and increase the lead to 10 points, 56-46.

Nebraska tried a full-court press to attempt to cut into the lead, but Minnesota maintained its advantage after back-to-back dunks by Williams and Sampson.

Down the stretch, the Gophers' lead didn't drop below eight points, as Minnesota held the Huskers to 8-of-26 (.308) field goals in the second half.

Nebraska was led by a game-high 18 points from Bo Spencer, while Toney McCray added 15 points and six rebounds.

The Gophers now look ahead to Thursday night's Border Battle matchup with Wisconsin at Williams Arena. Tipoff is set for 6:00 p.m. (CT), and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com