Even Tubby’s Wondering What The Fuck?!?!?!

Posted: December 7, 2011 by Kodi in BBall, Gopher Redemption, NCAA

Minnesota continuing their non-conference play success under Tubby Smith Gophers keep winning

Rodney Williams has been playing incredibly since the season ending injury to Trevor Mbakwe

While Joe Coleman and Julian Welch stepped up against the Mountaineers too

I don’t know if Rodney has something against Mountaineers but he has had two of his most explosive games against them

Minnesota continued its home stand welcoming the Appalachian State Mountaineers from the Southern conference to Williams Arena. The Gophers were 8-1 heading into the game against App St. with their only loss coming in the championship round of the Old Spice Classic, the game Mbakwe sustained a season ending injury. Minnesota had already lost 7 players with over 500 games of experience coming into this year and with the injury of Mbakwe they are relying on 7 new faces, 3 freshman and 2 junior college transfers.

Minnesota looked to improve their non-conference record which has been tremendous under Smith and the Gophers were 8-1 against the Southern Conference all-time. Minnesota welcomed App State to Dinkytown when they opened up the 1998-99 season but the game has been vacated. Minnesota has started slow in nearly all of their games this season and have allowed weaker opponents to stay in the game before the Gophers eventually prevail.

As slow as they have been out of the gate they still hold a plus25 point differential in their opening 9 games. Tubby Smith must be making some halftime adjustments because Minnesota has a plus52 point differential against their opponents in the second half of their first 9 games. Minnesota has been outscored just twice, once against Dayton and against Mt. St. Mary’s when they had a huge first half lead. To nobody’s surprise Minnesota started the game off slow yet again, going the first 4:40 without a single basket.

Luckily for the Gophers Appalachian St. only scored 5 points in that time and when G Julian Welch made a three pointer is was a 2 point game. It was tight in the middle of the first half until the Gophers went on a 8-2 run behind some solid offensive play by true freshman G Joe Coleman. F Rodney Williams pulled down an offensive board and made a good layup underneath the hoop and in the following possession he made a solid dunk to give Minnesota a 10 point lead.

I don’t know how many times I am going to have to bring this up but it has to be said, the Gophers games are determined by one thing, the three point line. They are terrible at defending it and have little success making them and the former was a problem on Tuesday while Tubby fixed the latter. Mountaineers G Rodney Milum hit 3straight three pointers while the Gophers offense mustered a single free throw cutting their lead down to just 2 points, which is where it stayed heading into the locker rooms.

The game stayed close until midway through the second half when Milum hit another three pointer giving App. State their first lead since early in the first half. Minnesota took back the lead when Williams threw down his 2nd emphatic dunk and Smith kept feeding the junior forward after that. I know that I have been harsh on Williams and his skepticism to take jump shots but by taking what the defense gives him he has one of the best field goal percentages in all of the Big Ten.

He did however make two of his best shots from the floor in a 2 minutes span at the end of the second half. He took and made an incredibly difficult three point shot and followed it up with a fade away jump shot that I would have never imagined he would make. Williams finished the game with a career high tying 18 points going 8-10 from the field, 1-1 from beyond the arc, pulled down 6 rebounds, 4 offensive, made an assist, stole 1 ball and blocked 5 shots! In the 3 games since Mbakwe’s injury Williams has played in all but 12 minutes of the Gophers games and missed just 5 shots, 1 free throw, while pulling down 23 rebounds, making 5 assists, 10 blocks, 7 steals while turning the ball over just 5 times. “We needed every bit that he had, because he delivered” Smith said of Williams play, “whenever the bell rang he answered it”.

Williams has stepped up in a big way for Minnesota but so has the plethora of guards that Tubby has implemented throughout this young season. On Tuesday Andre Hollins was limited to just 11 minutes after sustaining hip soreness and tendonitis in his knee after the game against USC on Saturday. That allowed G Julian Welch and Joe Coleman to increase their time on the floor and the two combined for 25 points. Coleman had an explosive first half and made some impressive plays offensively but there were multiple times where the Mountaineers exposed his shakey defensive play.

Welch posted his 3rd straight game with 15 or more points and has been a good source of offense on a team that has moved on quickly after losing their star player.  Welch did score but he had one of his worst games handling the ball committing 4 turnovers and forcing Smith to rely on Maverick Ahanmisi and Chip Aremlin. Welch did go 6-6 from the free throw line and has now made 25 straight since missing 2 in the Gophers game against DePaul. Welch also made the Gophers only other three pointer and the Gophers were 2-6 as a team, while Smith has decided to quit shooting them if you aren’t making them.

Minnesota did a decent job defending the three, holding the Mountaineers to just under 43% from deep allowing them to make 9 of 21 attempts. Appalachian States two leading scorers were starting G Omar Carter and bench G Rodney Milum who were a combined 8-14 from three point land while the rest of the team was 1-7. The Gophers did a fantastic job defensively and the Mountaineers shot just 35.3% from the field on their way to a 70-56 loss. Minnesota ended the second half on a 20-7 run to make this game seem like it wasn’t as close as it really was heading into the final minutes. “We’ve had a lot of things we’ve had to overcome, but I’m really proud of how these kids have responded every time there was a hurdle in front of them” Smith explained to the media about his teams perseverance, “they find a way to get over it”.

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