Rodney Williams Takes a Dunk on Mountaineers

Posted: November 22, 2011 by Kodi in BBall, Gopher Redemption, NCAA

Actually 5 of them

The 29 point win is the Gophers biggest margin of victory in over a year

and may just give them the confidence they need to win the upcoming Old Spice Classic!

Minnesota welcomed Mount St. Mary’s to The Barn in the Gophers final game before heading off to the Old Spice Classic. Officially the Gophers have never played the Mountaineers but that is because they vacated a 87-52 victory that Minnesota had in the 1995-96 season. Minnesota was 6-0 against other teams from the Northeast Conference and this Mount St. Mary’s team may be the weakest of the Gophers first 4 games.

Minnesota hasn’t exploded offensively in their opening three games but they came out on fire against the Mountaineers. The opening bucket for the Gophers happened on their second possession when G Austin Hollins hit a 3 pointer with contact and drilled the and 1 for a 4 point play. The next basket was an aggressive dunk by F Rodney Williams who had a shot at his own and 1 but missed the free throw.

Minnesota forced a turnover and charged down court feeding the ball to F Trevor Mbakwe who went to the hole but kicked it out to Austin Hollins for another 3 pointer. Minnesota pushed their lead to 9-0 and Mount St. Mary’s was forced to use their first timeout. It didn’t help because another turnover by Josh Castellanos led to another powerful dunk by Rodney William and Minnesota jumped out to a 11-0 lead and the best start for the Gophers all season.

There was a late scratch from the starting lineup when Center Ralph Sampson III was unable to warm-up due to an ankle injury. It is just the 3rd game that Sampson has missed since his freshman year in 2008-09 and his absence gave freshman Elliott Eliason his first career start. Eliason made his first lay-up early in the 1st half and finished the game with 4 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.

After Eliason’s lay-up it was right back to the Rodney Williams show who threw down his 3rd dunk and 2nd and 1 opportunity of the game. This time Williams hit the free throw and the Gophers were up 17-4. Williams would eventually add 2 more dunks and would finish the first half 5-5 from the field because they were all dunks.

Williams had just 2 dunks in his previous 3 games but as he said the “coaches were telling me I need to be more aggressive.  . . Tonight I just came out looking to be more aggressive from the jump. They didn’t box me out going to the offensive boards, so that’s where I got most of my points”. Williams finished the game 5-6 from the field, 2-4 from the free throw line, with 2 offensive rebounds, 1 steal, no turnovers and 12 points.

After starting the game on an 11-0 run the Gophers went on a 13-0 run to increase their lead to 21 beating the Mountaineers 25-4 10 minutes through the first half. Later in the half the Gophers added a 16-2 run and Minnesota was up 45-10 and headed to the locker room with a 51-16 lead at halftime. This was the most points the Gophers have scored in the first half of a game and the least amount of points allowed. Every single player that played in the opening 20 minutes, 11 of them, scored at least one point for the Minnesota Gophers.

The second half opened similarly to the first with a Hollins three point shot but this time it was Andre not Austin. Mount St. Mary’s Head Coach Robert Burke must have chewed out his team because they came out playing hard and made 5 of their first 6 shot attempts but their fate was sealed. “We outscored them in the second half and shot a better field goal percentage. We outrebounded them in the second half so there is quite a bit that we can build on, and that is what we will do” but as Burke would later admit “clearly we did not handle the pressure”.

The Gophers won the game 85-56 and the 29 point margin of victory is the largest for Minnesota since they beat Iowa by 35 in the 2009-10 season. Freshman G Joe Coleman broke double digits in scoring for the first time in his young collegiate career and finished the game 4-6 from the field and 2-3 from the line to score 10 points on top of his 4 rebounds.

A blowout like this allowed for a lot of opportunities and the Gophers took advantage sophomore G Austin Hollins had career highs in points, 14 and assists, 6 while junior F Andre Ingram had career highs in points, 5 and rebounds, 5. G Julian Welch had a career high 4 assists although he was the only Gopher to see the floor and not score at least 1 point. Freshman F Oto Osenieks scored 7 points after his career high last game but did have career highs in steals, 3 and blocked shots, 3.

The biggest surprise might have been that F Trevor Mbakwe didn’t record his 4th straight double-double. He finished the game with 10 points and just 9 rebounds but squandered the opportunity late in the game to pull down his 10th rebound. He knew about his consecutive games streak but he pulled just 2 rebounds down in the second half and grimaced when the 10th rebound fell out of his hands.

After a season high 23 turnovers in the Gophers last game they recorded a season low 9 in this game against the Mountaineers. Minnesota also won the rebound battle 36-25 and HC Tubby Smith knows that the team “needed a good game to have some confidence and feel good about themselves”. Minnesota will be facing DePaul in the opening round of the Old Spice Classic and may be the favorites to win the entire tournament.

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