M-block-we Swats 4, Drops 17 in Gophers Win Over Jackrabbits

Posted: November 15, 2011 by Kodi in BBall, Gopher Redemption, NCAA

Gophers win their 2nd in a row and stay undefeated!

Mbakwe is out of this league, punishing shooters and attacking the basket

The Gophers slow start is forgotten after an 18-1 run in the second half . . . 

The Minnesota Golden Gophers Men’s Basketball team welcomed the South Dakota St. Jackrabbits to Williams Arena for the 7th season in a row and 16th time overall. The Jackrabbits are members of the Summit League whom Tubby Smith is 15-0 against and the Gophers are 62-1 all-time against Summit League foes. Last season the Jackrabbits came into town two days before Christmas and were beaten 73-85 just their 4th loss in 12 games. South Dakota St finished the season 19-12 but has never beaten Minnesota although every game has been played in the unfriendly confines of The Barn.

The Jackrabbits clearly struggle against Big Ten competition like the Golden Gophers but Minnesota had an extremely lethargic first half and didn’t punish South Dakota St. like they are capable of. Minnesota did jump out to a 10-3 lead but allowed the Jackrabbits to jump back into the game and take a 13-12 lead after a Taevaunn Prince 3 point jumper. From that point the two teams just kept going back and forth with no team taking a lead larger than 3 points. The Gophers were able to take a 32-30 lead into the locker room at halftime but the team didn’t record a single offensive rebound but allowed just two 3 pointers, blocked 4 shots and stole the ball 8 times.

South Dakota St. Head Coach Scott Nagy admitted that the problem for his team wasn’t the second half it was the first “if you[re] going to be a championship team which we want to be you can’t turn over the ball like we did. That is usually a strength of our and I don’t know why it wasn’t tonight”. Minnesota pressed the ball a lot and since the arrival of HC Tubby Smith in Dinkytown the Gophers defense has improved immensely. “We didn’t handle the pressure well. I thought we had guys play nervous and you can’t come to a place like Minnesota and play nervous” Nagy said after the game.

Although the Gophers were able to force turnovers it didn’t transition into a huge lead for Minnesota, they struggled to get second opportunities on offense and just didn’t shoot the ball well the further they got away from the basket. Smith and the Gophers need to find that player who can be relied on to make a big 3 pointer when the time calls, thus far the young players haven’t found their confidence but the ability is there, as Minnesota was 3-3 from the 3 point line in the first half. G Chip Armelin came off of the bench and gave the Gophers a shot in the arm scoring all of his career high 9 points in the first half.

Minnesota was also outrebounded by a smaller less talented Jackrabbits team 23-13 in the first half but the Gophers turned it around in the second half. SD State jumped out to a 47-39 lead with just over 14 minutes left in the game behind a couple of huge 3 pointers by Jackrabbits G Nate Wolters. Minnesota’s surge came on an 18-1 run in the second half and it was fueled by F Trevor Mbakwe and the Gophers ability to rebound and secure the ball.

The Gophers were still outrebounded in the game 37-33 but outrebounded the Jackrabbits 20-14 in the second half. “We were not getting the long rebounds and their guards were just coming in, and Coach really challenged us at half-time ‘cause we are a team that really prides ourselves on getting rebounds” Mbakwe told reporters but reiterated that “I think we did a better [job rebounding] at the second half ‘cause Coach really challenged us”.

Minnesota was up 57-48 with 8:29 left in the game and the Gophers big men, Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson III were aggressive in attacking the basket which was the difference. The two began to rebound extremely well and power through defenders around the hole to put points on the board and take away unnecessary second chances. 13 of the Gophers final 14 points were made by either Mbakwe or Sampson and Smith knows that when his young guards are incapable of scoring consistently that he can just dump the ball down low and let those two dominant defenses.

Minnesota ended up beating the Jackrabbits 58-71 but the Gophers had plenty of room for improvement for the upcoming season. Minnesota was just 11-21 from the free throw line a dismal .524 from the line and the Gophers may be able to leave 10 points on the line against a team from the Summit League but not against Big Ten competition. Minnesota did improve their 3 point shot going 3-3 in the first half but finished the game 6-14 and was wildly inconsistent in their range from behind the arc

Nate Wolters gave the Gophers guards a whole lot of trouble throughout the game finishing as the game’s leading scoring with 20 points and added 5 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 steals. Wolters was the Jackrabbits second leading scoring in last year’s match-up against the Gophers scoring 16 points with 11 assists and 4 rebounds. Austin and Andre Hollins were in charge of defending Wolters which turned out to be a difficult task as Smith was forced to bench Andre after he got into foul trouble.

With Hollins only able to play 11 minutes in the second half Smith was forced to rely on somebody from his bench and one player in particular really stepped it up for the team. G Chip Armelin did a lot for the team in the first half scoring all of his career high 9 points in the first 20 minutes. G Maverick Ahanmisi also decided that it was his night to post a career high in points too, scoring all 8 of his points in the second half. But anybody who watches this Gophers team knows that it is all about Mbakwe who recorded his second straight double-double and the 21st of his career.

Mbakwe was 6-7 from the floor and 5-9 from the free throw line and scored a team high 17 points, while pulling down 2 second half offensive rebounds and 10 total rebounds as well as an assist, 2 steals and 4 blocks. Mbakwe know that the Gophers have struggled to come fast out of the gates and said after the game  that it “felt like we were doing the same thing. We picked up the intensity and played in the second half how we should have started the game. We were more aggressive team and I think that really showed . . . We really picked it up and were able to get some stops”. That’s what these games are for, to build confidence and improve on your weaknesses before you get into Big Ten play.

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