Giveaways Haunt Gophers in Nolen's Absence

Losing Al Nolen to a broken foot Jan. 22 changed the way the Gophers operate. Minnesota's starting point guard was a game-changer. With him out, the Gophers' post players are finding themselves in more positions where they have to handle the ball.

During a 82-69 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 6, Ralph Sampson III, Colton Iverson and Trevor Mbakwe combined to record 12 of their team's 19 turnovers.

Earlier this season, the Gophers won with depth. Then, Mo Walker suffered a season-ending knee injury. And Devoe Joseph left the program in January. Nolen suffered his injury later that month, leaving the Gophers with eight available scholarship players.

Gophers coach Tubby Smith played to his team's strengths and utilized a lineup that featured his three remaining big men: Iverson, Mbakwe and Sampson. But turnovers have become a big issue.

And it's a growing concern for Smith.

"Obviously, turning the ball over 19 times, you're not going to win many games like that, I don't care who you play against," Smith said.


--Trevor Mbakwe was 10th in the country with 13 double-doubles through Feb. 6. He was leading the Big Ten in rebounds with 10.5 boards per game. The Gophers' first two games in February featured the second and third times this season that Mbakwe failed to record double figures in scoring or rebounding in the same contest.

--Austin Hollins made his fourth start of the season against Indiana on Feb. 6. The freshman, who is the son of Memphis Grizzlies head coach Lionel Hollins, averaged 11.0 points and 2.5 steals in the last two games through Feb. 6.

--Blake Hoffarber continues to struggle as the new Gophers point guard, a switch made after Al Nolen was injured. He'd recorded eight turnovers in the team's last two games through Feb. 6.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "All those things help. All those things tie into your commitment to the program and resources, and that's a big part of it nowadays. It's like an arms race. ... It's not just something for recruiting. (The practice facility is) needed. We really don't like going across the street in the cold to lift (weights). We just don't like that. We'd like to be able to have our own place where we could do that." -- Tubby Smith, on his team's need for a practice facility.



--vs. Illinois, Feb. 10

KEY MATCHUPS: Demetri McCamey was averaging 6.8 assists per game through Feb. 6, but he hadn't been the leader that the Fighting Illini have needed this season. Austin Hollins, a 6-foot-4 guard, can frustrate McCamey with his length and defensive tools.

--at Iowa, Feb. 13

KEY MATCHUPS: Iowa forward Melsahn Basabe is just a freshman, but he's evolved into a go-to playmaker for the Hawkeyes. He was averaging 10.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game through Feb. 6.

FUTURES MARKET: As a senior in high school, Chip Armelin decided to pursue his dream of playing football. Turns out, he was pretty good. Division I schools offered him scholarships to play at the next level. Armelin wanted to pursue a basketball career, but schools backed off, assuming he'd decided to play football.

Tubby Smith nabbed him in August, and Armelin has been a huge plus for the program. The 6-foot-3 athlete isn't a point guard, and he's not really a shooting guard, but he can play. He's using his athleticism to get to the basket. He has deceptive explosiveness. Just ask Ohio State's Dallas Lauderdale, whom Armelin dunked on in the Feb. 6 game.


--Senior G Al Nolen could return in time for the Big Ten tournament. Doctors told the team that he'd probably miss a minimum of four weeks with a broken foot suffered Jan. 22, but he's progressing, and the team hopes to get him back before the end of the season.

--Junior F Trevor Mbakwe will be in court Feb. 7 to face a charge that he violated a harassment restraining order against him on Jan. 9. His lawyer doesn't expect him to face any jail time.

--Senior G Blake Hoffarber missed a chunk of the second half Feb. 6 with a knee injury. But Gophers coach Tubby Smith said he doesn't expect his team's leading scorer to miss any additional time.

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