Williams Lifts Minnesota Over Huskers 84-65

MINNEAPOLIS – Following a four-game losing skid, the No. 23 Gophers answered their critiques in a big way with a convincing 84-65 victory over Nebraska on Tuesday evening. Rodney Williams paced the Gophers with a season-high 23 points as Minnesota improved to 16-5 overall and 4-4 in the conference.

Williams was dominant early, scoring eight of Minnesota's (16-5, 4-4) first nine points, including a pair of huge dunks against the Huskers (11-11, 2-7).

"Rodney Williams coming out focused always kind of sets a good tone for our team," said Tubby Smith. "He showed the leadership; not just in scoring. He was very active and engaged."

During the Gopher's four-game losing streak, Williams had averaged just 7.8 points per game, something he was looking to change.

"I think he just got tired of everybody talking about how big of a slump he was in," said Trevor Mbakwe about Williams' season-high 23-point performance. "We all had faith in him. We knew it wasn't going to last long. It was no surprise that he came out the way was, being aggressive and setting the tone for us early."

Williams was relieved to get back to his scoring ways.

"For me to come out and play the way I did, that's huge for me," said Williams.

Although Williams propelled the Gophers to an early 19-6 lead, the Huskers fought hard to battle back in the first half behind the play of junior guard Ray Gallegos. Gallegos nailed eight of 10 shots from the floor and made four threes to lead all scorers with 20 points in the first half.

With Gallegos leading the way, the rest of the Huskers weren't missing shots as they hit 63.6 percent from the field, leaving Minnesota with just a 44-35 edge at the break.

Despite the hot shooting from Nebraska, Minnesota started the second half the way they started the first; with a big slam by Williams.

"The first five minutes of the first half and second half, coach really talks about how we just want to come out and set the tone for the game."

Throughout the game, Minnesota was able to set up an effective full-court press, forcing the Huskers into 13 turnovers.

"I can't remember the last time we pressed that much," said Williams. "It worked today [for us]."

The defensive pressure allowed Minnesota to get out in transition and pick up easy buckets on the break. The Gophers slowly began the pull away from the Huskers, something they have had difficulty doing all season.

Despite Gallegos' 30-point performance, Minnesota was simply too aggressive in their search to break a tough conference losing skid, dominating the Huskers 84-65 at Williams Arena.

"If you go on a four-game losing streak, to finally get a win and take care of business, it feels good," said Mbakwe who had just four points but had a game-high eight rebounds and two blocks. "We're not content on this. We want to win out the rest of the games."

The Gophers will look to make it two in a row as they take on the Iowa Hawkeyes at noon this Sunday in Minneapolis.

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