Williams Leads Gophers Past Appalachian State, 70-56

Go Gophers! Senior forward Ralph Sampson III returned to the lineup after missing the past two games and had 10 points and five rebounds.
Go Gophers!
Senior forward Ralph Sampson III returned to the lineup after missing the past two games and had 10 points and five rebounds.
Go Gophers!

Dec. 6, 2011

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MINNEAPOLIS - Junior forward Rodney Williams continued his strong play, tying his career-high with 18 points, as Minnesota held off Appalachian State, 70-56, on Tuesday night at Williams Arena.

Williams reached double-figures for the third consecutive game, and tied his career-high of 18 points, which he set last month versus DePaul at the Old Spice Classic. He added a team-high six rebounds and a career-best five blocked shots to help Minnesota improve to 9-1 overall and 7-0 at home.

Junior guard Julian Welch added 15 points, while senior forward Ralph Sampson III returned to the lineup with 10 points and five boards, and freshman guard Joe Coleman also reached double-digits with 10 points.

The Mountaineers (4-4) were led by 18 points and three assists from Omar Carter, while Rodney Milum had 16 points, and Isaac Butts finished with nine points and eight rebounds. ASU made 9-of-21 three-pointers, with Milum going 5-of-9 from beyond the arc, but it was just 9-of-30 on two-point field goal attempts.

Appalachian State got off to a quick start, as Carter hit a three-pointer on the opening possession. When G.J. Vilarino pulled up and hit a jumper at the 17:40 mark, the visitors had jumped out to an early 5-0 lead.

Minnesota struggled in the early stages, missing its first seven field goal attempts before Welch finally got the Gophers on the board with a trey at the 15:20 mark. Sophomore guard Austin Hollins then added a fastbreak layup to tie the score.

A three-pointer by ASU's Jamaal Trice made it 8-5, but the Golden Gophers responded with an 8-0 run, keyed by four points from Williams, to take a 13-8 advantage and force a timeout by Mountaineers head coach Jason Capel.

ASU made its third three-pointer in five attempts, this one by Milum, and Carter later added his second field goal after Sampson had scored for the Gophers, to cut Minnesota's lead to 15-13.

But the Gophers started to pull away by going on a 10-5 run over the next three minutes and 21 seconds, which included six points by Coleman, to build a 25-18 lead.

Williams followed by scoring on a put-back basket, and then got past his defender along the baseline for a dunk to make it 29-19. Minnesota, which started 0-for-7 from the field, had made 14-of-19 to build its 10-point lead.

But Milum answered with a pair of deep three-pointers from the top of the key, before adding his fourth of the first half from in front of Minnesota's bench, to pull Appalachian State back within two, 30-28.

The Gophers took a 32-30 lead into the half, led by nine points and five rebounds from Williams. But the Mountaineers made 6-of-10 three-pointers, led by Milum's 4-of-5 effort for 13 points, which tied his career-high.

Appalachian State opened the second half on an 8-3 run, with Carter scoring six points, to retake the lead, 38-35. Trailing 40-37, the Gophers were able to use a 5-0 spurt to retake a 42-40 lead.

Williams made a fade-away jumper along the left baseline, beating the shot clock to break a 42-42 tie, and Coleman added a free throw for a 45-42 edge. But Milum hit his fifth three-pointer of the night to deadlock the score at 45-all.

Once again, Minnesota worked its way to a five-point lead, 52-47, with sophomore guard Chip Armelin connecting on a three-point play, Williams getting free for another dunk, and sophomore guard Maverick Ahanmisi adding a layup. But, once again, the Mountaineers didn't go away. Carter nailed his third trifecta of the game to cap a 5-0 run and knot the score for the fifth time, 52-52.

But the Gophers responded with a critical 8-0 run to retake the lead for good, as Williams made a long three-pointer, followed by another three-point play by Armelin, and a steal and layup by Welch.

The Gophers continue their six-game home stand when they play host to St. Peter's on Saturday. Tipoff at Williams Arena is set for 12:00 p.m. (CT), and the game will be streamed online via Gopher All-Access and at BTN.com.

--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com