Men's basketball: Gophers bounce Nebraska
MINNEAPOLIS — Rodney Williams snapped out of a funk to score 23 points and No. 23 Minnesota got a much-needed confidence boost with an 84-65 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday night.
Andre Hollins scored 14 points and Austin Hollins had 13 points and five assists for the Golden Gophers (16-5, 4-4 Big Ten), who snapped a four-game losing skid that caused them to plummet in the rankings.
Ray Gallegos scored 30 points for Nebraska (11-11, 2-7), which committed 13 turnovers to offset some impressive shooting. The Huskers shot 54.5 percent for the game, but were outrebounded 36-19 and forced just six turnovers by Minnesota.
Gallegos, who made 12 of 17 shots including six 3-pointers, didn’t get much help. Brandon Ubel scored 13 points and Shavon Shields had 10.
The Gophers started the season 15-1, with the only loss to Duke. Expectations started to swell as the victories piled up, and they climbed to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 before they hit the skids. Losses to Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin threatened to spoil things as the Gophers followed a familiar script under Tubby Smith.
Three years ago, the Gophers lost six of eight games in Big Ten play. Two years ago they went a stretch of 10 losses in 11 games and last season they dropped the final six games. During their latest swoon, Smith seemed to anger some players, Williams included, with his blunt assessment of their failings after losses.
Williams scored just two points in the loss to Wisconsin last weekend continuing a troubling slump for the athletic power forward. He scored eight of the team’s first nine points against overmatched Nebraska, throwing down two dunks in the process to get the Gophers rolling.
After a brief rest, Williams didn’t stop. He kept attacking the overwhelmed Cornhuskers, even adding a rare 3-pointer to the mix. It was an encouraging sign for the Gophers, who desperately need their high flyer to get back to the difference-maker he was during the nonconference portion of the schedule if they want to get back into the hunt. But dominating lesser competition has never been an issue for Williams. He’s always been able to use his superior athleticism to leap overwhelm them.
It’s when the Gophers are going toe-to-toe with bigger, more physical opponents — Michigan State and Wisconsin of the Big Ten — that Williams tends to disappear. He combined for nine points in two losses to the Badgers and Northwestern last week, going 3 for 17 from the field and finding it difficult to get to the basket for easy dunks.
The Huskers did their best to make a game of it, shooting 64 percent in the first half. Gallegos scored 20 points, hitting four 3-pointers, and Nebraska got back in the game when Smith subbed out all five starters midway through the first half.
But the Huskers turnovers made it difficult for coach Tim Miles to slow down the pace, a strategy that Northwestern and Wisconsin used to great success against the Gophers. Williams’ final soaring dunk gave the Gophers a 73-53 lead with 5:05 to go.