Thursday, January 31, 2008

Tubby tacks on No. 400

The Minnesota Gophers mens basketball team ventured to Ann Arbor, Michigan tonight to take on the University of Michigan Wolverines.

The verdict? A 77-65 victory for Minnesota, win number 13 on the season.

The importance? Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith earned his 400th NCAA Division-I victory.

Fittingly, it was the Gophers seniors who led the way. The trio of Dan Coleman, Lawrence McKenzie and Spencer Tollackson combined for 49 points, 20 rebounds and 10 assists in cementing their coach's milestone victory.

Having a seven-year contract signed, twenty wins-per-season would put Smith in the 500-win club by the 2012-2013 season. For the moment, however, Smith's Gophers have the rest of 2008 and an NCAA tournament bid to play for.

Defeating the Wolverines gives Minnesota its third conference victory, improving them to sixth place among Big Ten competition.

Conversely, the Wolverines fall to 5-16 (1-8 Big Ten) as memories of Chris Webber, Juwan Howard and the famous Fab Five seem like a faded memory these days.

Wolves new Big Ticket shines in the Low Post

Three weeks ago, the Minnesota Timberwolves were getting burnt to a 115-95 crisp. Since that loss in Phoenix, Minnesota has won four games and played quality basketball in six straight. The main reason the Wolves have achieved nearly have its season victory total in an 11-day span: Al Jefferson.

An emerging NBA star, the 23-year-old is making a huge impact with his new team and should be given serious consideration as an All-Star invite.

Last night, in the Wolves win over Chicago, Big Al poured in 26 points and ripped down 20 boards. Jefferson is averaging 21.2 points and 12.2 rebounds (including 4.1 offensive) per game this season.

During Minnesota's hot six-game stretch, Jefferson has averaged 30.2 points and 16.5 rebounds per contest, shooting at a 52.2% (72-138) success rate -- remove the loss at Boston (versus the Wolves old Big Ticket) and those numbers would be 33.2, 18.8 and 53.2%, respectively.

No, Minnesota will not make the playoffs. Yes, the Boston Celtics will make the playoffs. No, a Minnesota team with a 9-34 record does not merit the number of All-Stars a team like the Celtics (35-8) do.

But, yes, Kevin Garnett (19.2 ppg, 9.0 rpg and 3.8 apg) will undoubtedly get an All-Star nod, if not a start. So, one would also think Jefferson deserves at least some consideration, right?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Smith stuck at 399

With the game clock dwindling down below twenty seconds, an errant Lawrence McKenzie three-point attempt, followed by two true free throws by Indiana's Lance Stemler iced Tubby Smith's first crack at accomplishing 400 victories.

The Gophers (12-4, 2-2 Big Ten) fought hard, but were mildly offense in falling short. Minnesota shot 37.4-percent from the field and 52.4-percent from the free-throw line in its 65-60 loss to the Hoosiers at Williams Arena tonight.

Led by D.J. White's 17 points and nine rebounds, Indiana improved its record to 15-1. The 6-foot-9-inch, 259-pound forward outplayed Minnesota's front court counterparts and picked up the slack on a turnover-ridden night by his 10th-ranked Hoosiers team.

Minnesota's defense forced Indiana into a season-high 26 turnovers -- seven more than its previous high (19, vs. Tennessee State, Dec. 3).

The Gophers rattled IU's Eric Gordon, limiting the freshman phenom to 12 points (11 below his Big Ten leading 23.0 ppg) and forcing him to commit seven turnovers.

Leading the way for Minnesota's offense senior forward Dan Coleman (15 points and seven rebounds) and Spencer Tollackson (12 points).

Smith's next chance at 400 career victories will come Sunday, when the Gophers host the Michigan State Spartans.