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Pregame: Mbakwe should come off the bench

Mbakwe said he’s fine with this role if that’s what the team needs.

Blog post by: Amelia Rayno

Updated: November 22, 2012 - 2:08 PM

Unless coach Tubby Smith has a big surprise up his sleeve for today’s game against Duke in the opening round of the Battle 4 Atlantis, Trevor Mbakwe will be coming off the bench once more, despite playing a season-high 27 minutes in the Gophers’ most recent game against Richmond.

“The lineup is going to stay the way it is,” Smith said on Monday. “It’s just going to stay the way it is until I decide differently. Elliott [Eliason] has been giving us everything he has, just like everybody else has. So I’ve been impressed with Elliott and the way he’s been playing. I like Trevor coming off the bench.”

And if Smith’s comments from the past couple of weeks are any indication, it might be that way for a while – well into the season anyway.

But Mbakwe said he’s fine with this role if that’s what the team needs. Minutes and contributions matter more. It’s a new perspective that his odd situation this season has helped him embrace.

“In high school, everyone’s like, 'Oh, I start,’ and obviously it’s always good when you’re a starter,” he said. “But at the end of the day, I think most of us, we’d rather be one of those guys who are making plays down the stretch (rather than) on the bench cheering your teammates on. I feel more of a role when I’m actually out there, diving on the floor, getting a key rebound or making the key shot. That’s more important to me than starting the game at this point.”

To his credit, Eliason has been giving his usual gutty, intense performance for the Gophers, and while the center isn’t super productive on the stat sheet all the time, he does the little things – the effort things – really well. Mbakwe, off the bench, has made the best of the minutes he does get. The sixth- year senior is averaging six points and six rebounds in 16.3 minutes a game (a number that shot up after Sunday).

Other notes on today’s game:


Where to watch the Gophers tonight:

· If you have Direct TV: channel 340
· If you have Dish Network: channel 362
· If you have Comcast: channel 420 and 875 (Mpls); 268 and 875 (St. Paul)
· Listen to the game on 1500-a.m.

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This post is from the Gold in the Barn blog

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