The University of Minnesota's men's basketball team took care of business against the pesky North Dakota State Bison, but in doing so the #17 Golden Gophers may have lost starting small forward Rodney Williams.
The sophomore slasher told the Star Tribune he heard his ankle pop a couple times during the first half of Minnesota's 84-65 win Wednesday night at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Williams spent the second half on the Minnesota sidelines wearing a walking boot. Williams will be getting an MRI on his ankle sometime tomorrow, according to published reports. While we don't know the extent of the injury to Williams, this news is certainly a potential blow to the Gophers.
Aside from question marks surrounding Rodney's health, the Gophers played a methodical, even-keeled game against the Bison. The Gophers showed poise when the Bison cut our second half lead to 6 points, and quickly rallied to blow out NDSU 84-65. Blake Hoffarber led the Gophers with 24 points and 4 assists. Trevor Mbakwe added 12 points and 7 assists and Colton Iverson was a force again off the bench, scoring 9 points and grabbing 11 reboudns in just 17 minutes.
But credit the Bison for keeping this game relatively interesting through 2/3s of the affair. Michael Tveidt led the Bison with 14 points.
While Hoffarber, Mbakwe and Iverson led the Gophers offensively, Al Nolen gets my nod for Minnesota's player of the game. One game after his team needed him to score to lead the Gophers, Nolen went back to doing what he does best against the Bison. He finished with 5 steals, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 points, 1 block and 1 turnover. Nolen didn't force his offense. He didn't drive wildly into the lane. And, for the most part, he got the Gophers into our offensive sets.
More thoughts and observartions after the jump, including thoughts on what the Gophers look like if Rodney is out for an extended period of time.
- The impact of the injury to Williams, if it's serious and he's out for any length of time, will be a significant negative for the Gophers. I know many here believe Williams isn't an NBA-level talent and he's just a guy that can run, jump and dunk. It's true that he doesn't have a good outside shot yet, but I've seen flashes this year of him being the type of player the Gophers typically don't have. He jumps over everyone on the floor for a rebound. He extends poessesions with his athleticism. He deflects passes with his quickness and length. In the extended 2-3 zone that the Gophers were playing in Puerto Rico, Williams was tremendously effective in that zone, playing on the blocks having to cover signiicant ground to challenge outside shots. Now, if Williams is out a couple weeks, the injury might just allow Devoe Joesph to find minutes and get comfortable in the offense. And it would allow Chip Armelin and Austin Hollins to play more minutes too. But if Williams is lost for much longer than that, if he's out for part of the Big Ten season, I think the Gophers will sorely miss his athleticism.
- Apparently Maurice Walker has the green light to shoot three pointers. He went 2 for 2 last night from three. His outside stroke actually looks pretty decent. He finished with 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 blocks and 3 turnovers. We still haven't seen Mo score with his back to the basket, but if he's a 300-pound center who specializes in hitting 3s, well, that will be fun to watch.
- Maverick Ahanmisi probably played his best minutes as a Gopher. In 11 minutes, Ahanmisi hit a 3, drove to the rim and drew a foul, went 3-4 from the free throw line and racked up 3 assists, including a nice drive and dish where he found a big man open for a dunk.
- If Colton Iverson had his second straight solid game, Ralph Sampson III had his second straight quiet game. RSIII was 3-12 from the field. He finished with 9 points, 3 blocks and 3 reboudns in 27 minutes. The junior big man had the type of off night we've seen from him before. His offense was tentative. When he had an open look from the perimeter, he was a tad hesitant. When he had the opportunity to make a power move in the lane, he settled instead for a jump hook into a crowded lane. I'm not too worried about Ralph, but the Gophers need him to gain some confidence in the next few games so he heads into the Big Ten season ready to roll.
- Dominique Dawson played 2 minutes at the end of the game. Good to see him on the floor.
- I was thinking last night while watching the game that it would be fun for the Gophers to play at North Dakota State one of these years. Yes, I know, it's a lose-lose situation playing at a small-school team's gym. Win and get no credit. Lose and get punished. But part of the charm of college basketball to me are the courts and facilities. I love watching the Gophers play in environments where I haven't seen them before. At St. Joes for instance this year, that's a neat road game.
- The Gophers will next suit up on Monday night, in the first game of this year's ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Virginia will be coming off of a 1-2 showing in the Maui Invitational, where the Cavaliers lost to Washington, beat Oklahoma (who then lost to Chaminade) and lost to Witchita State.
Finally, happy Thanksgiving to all here in the TDG community. I plan to eat too much and watch a lot of sports on TV. I suspect many of you will do the same.