Despite having not played a game in 11-days, the Minnesota Golden Gophers overcame a sluggish start to defeat the Lafayette Leopards of the Patriot League, 75-50, in the final non-conference tune-up before Big Ten season starts on New Year’s Eve against Michigan State at Williams Arena.
Forward Trevor Mbakwe made his first start of the season and went on to score 5 points while grabbing 3 offensive rebounds. Many wondered when coach Tubby Smith would start Mbakwe, who is coming off a knee injury. But given Minnesota’s depth in the post, Smith has been reluctant to push Mbakwe into the lineup earlier than necessary.
Joe Coleman led the Gophers in scoring with 12 points, including at least four dunks. The sophomore was 6-for-8 from the field while adding two steals and a block.
Australia product Dan Trist led the Leopards with 14 points off 7-for-8 shooting, but his effort alone was not enough for Lafayette, who were beat on nearly every possession in the paint. Lafayette lost the rebounding battle 22-40.
Minnesota big men Mbakwe, Mo Walker, and Andre Ingram were match-up nightmares for Lafayette. The three Gophers combined for 13 of the team’s 25 offensive rebounds in the game.
Freshman Wally Ellenson played 15 minutes tonight, coming in the second half and scoring 5 points. The Rice Lake, WI native was 2-6 and had three offensive rebounds himself, but already notched a highlight with a reverse slam off an Osenieks miss.
Thirteen Gophers played tonight, yet, Elliott Eliason did not play. Eliason, who has played in every Gopher game this season, was seen on the bench.