When Rodney Williams swiped the ball from NDSU point guard Lawrence Alexander right after boosting the Gophers’ lead to four points, his first thought in transition was just ‘dunk it.’
But then he saw all the extra space and decided it was time for something pretty.
Exhibit A: the 360-degree dunk that the super athlete has flashed a few times in his career at Minnesota.
The crowd (and Twitter) went wild, and the slam instigated an 8-0 run to finish the first half and put the Gophers up by 7 at the break.
But after the game, the media circled Williams’ and demanded (jokingly, ok? We’re not that mean) why he hadn’t attempted something new. After all, LAST year he was tired of the 360 – when he flipped it in a game, he shook his head afterward and said he wanted to get creative.
So -- back to the old tried-and-true again on Tuesday?
“I got nervous,” Williams said, shaking his head. “. I had to do what I knew would go in, so I did a 360. You see I almost broke my back afterward, so maybe next time I should just lay it up or something
“I knew I had to do something. When I got the steal initially, I was just going to dunk regular, but I knew I had to do something cause I heard the crowd.”
Fine for now, Austin Hollins said, but if Williams does it AGAIN, it might be intervention time.
“We won’t give him any crap right now because everybody likes it, it gets the crowd hyped, it gets us hyped,” Hollins said, smiling coyly. “But if he doesn’t it again, we might have to say a couple words to him.”
Of course, it’s not a bad position to be in when everyone teases you about the “same ‘ol” flashy dunks. But that’s the life of Rodney Williams.
(next up on Williams' wish list of dunks to do in a game -- IF THE SCORE ISN'T CLOSE, he said -- the windmill.)
Notes on tonight’s 70-57 win over North Dakota State:
• Surprisingly, the Gophers decided to lift freshman Wally Ellenson’s redshirt on Tuesday after the guard missed 11 games with a broken left hand. Ellenson came in late in the second half – looking nervous at first – but scoring his first career point off a free throw. After the game, coach Tubby Smith said he spoke with Ellenson and his family and that collectively they agreed to play him.
• Speaking of Williams, the forward had a season-high in points (19) and was terrific in getting the Gophers going in the first half (when he scored 13 points).
• Trevor Mbakwe (see my story for the paper tomorrow) had perhaps his most momentous game of the year, playing aggressively in long stretches on both ends and recording his second double-double and grabbing a career-high in rebounds (18). It’s getting harder to justify the big man not being in the starting lineup.
• Smith made it clear he wants Elliott Eliason – who played just seven minutes, but struggled inside against NDSU’s aggressive frontcourt – needs to get bigger, stronger, better. “He’s got to get in the weight room over these next few days,” the coach said. “But he’s done some good things for us. And Mo’s got to continue to get into shape. But we’ve got depth at that spot that’s going to be a big help to us.”
• After tonight, the Gophers go on a long, 11-day break from games during which they’ll take finals. Said Williams of the extended stretch: “I think it’s a good thing. We’ve got a couple of guys banged up. This break will be good to us, it’s not like we’re not going to be practicing or anything. We’re going to go out there and work hard every day in practice and it will show come gametime.”
• The Gophers shot a fairly atrocious 38.3 percent from the field for the game, but they did a lot of other things well. The 11 turnovers were the team’s fewest since the season opener (they had nine against American) and behind Mbakwe’s performance, Minnesota outdid NDSU, 43-26 on the boards. The Gophers also had 11 steals and made seven three-pointers (including three from Austin Hollins).