Skip to content

All it took was the first 6:05 for Trevor Mbakwe to beat Indiana

Feb 26, 2013, 10:06 PM EDT

Jordan Hulls, Jordan Hulls, Kevin Ferrell

Minnesota saved their season on Tuesday night, as the team that everyone had left for dead knocked off No. 1 Indiana at home, 77-73.

And the credit for the win should fall squarely on the shoulders of senior big man Trevor Mbakwe.

Mbakwe finished with 21 points and 12 boards, six of which came on the offensive end of the floor, but the real difference that he made — when Mbakwe won the game for the Gophers — was in the first 6:05.

First, he grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a putback. Then he hit a jumper, and followed that up with a dunk on the next possession. After a pair of buckets from Rodney Williams, Mbakwe grabbed another offensive rebound and was fouled, hitting both free throws. Then, on the ensuing possession, he grabbed his third offensive rebound of the game, finishing another layup inside.

Finally, at the other end of the floor, Mbakwe came out of nowhere to block a Cody Zeller dunk at the rim.

Reading through those last three paragraphs doesn’t sound like much, but Mbakwe completely set the tone for the game. He whipped the crowd into a frenzy, he got his teammates fired up and into the game, and he sent Cody Zeller — who played one of his worst games of the season — backpedaling.

That matters because, entering Tuesday night, Minnesota looked like a team that had already resigned themselves to their NIT fate.

They were coming off of a stretch of eight losses in their last 11 games. They had just been taken behind the woodshed by both Iowa and Ohio State in the last seven days, losing those two games by a combined 47 points. They had no confidence. They were indecisive. There was no effort. I don’t think that it is fair to say that Minnesota was apathetic about the rest of the season, but it is fair to say that they played that way.

It looked like a lost cause.

Until Mbakwe came out and took over, and the rest of his team followed suit. The Gophers, as a team, simply manhandled Indiana in the paint, dominating the offensive glass and coming up with seemingly every loose ball. For the first time in two months, Minnesota actually won the battle of wills; they simply wanted it more than the Hoosiers.

That doesn’t happen if Mbakwe doesn’t start the game in the way that he did. That doesn’t happen if he doesn’t get his teammates fired up and get them motivated. That doesn’t happen if the crowd isn’t into the game from the start.

Think about it like this: Minnesota beat the No. 1 team in the country despite shooting 4-20 from three on what were, more often than not, open looks.

At the end of the day, what this Gopher team was missing was leadership.

On Tuesday night, Mbakwe provided just that.

And with Penn State, Nebraska and Purdue left on the schedule, there’s no reason that Minnesota (19-9, 7-8) can’t get to 10 league wins and head into the Big Ten tournament on a four-game winning streak.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

Latest Posts
  1. Pitt lands graduate transfer big man from Richmond

    May 24, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    alonzo nelson-ododa Getty Images

    Pitt added a big man who can play right away next season.

  2. Class of 2016 No. 1 Josh Jackson faces five-star guard Seventh Woods at UAA (VIDEO)

    May 24, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    2014 Under Armour Association Finals

    Two of the best in the 2016 class battle in the Under Armour Association.

  3. Academic issues expected to sideline St. John’s point guard for fall semester, maybe longer

    May 24, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    150524_Jordan_Rysheed Getty Images

    Already thin at the point, the situation becomes even tougher for first-year head coach Chris Mullin if this turns out to be the case.

  4. Former Providence center planning visits

    May 23, 2015, 9:51 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    A Big 12 and a Big Ten program are among those due who have reached out to the 7-foot-2 Fairfield Prep (Connecticut) product.

  5. Monitoring physicality as important as the shot clock in increasing offensive production

    May 23, 2015, 7:32 PM EDT

    Tad Boyle AP

    Colorado’s Tad Boyle doesn’t like the proposed shot clock change, and he made a good point about the physical nature of college basketball today.

  6. UC Davis, head coach Jim Les agree to contract extension through 2021

    May 23, 2015, 5:28 PM EDT

    Jim Les Jim Les

    Les led the Aggies to a school-record (Division I era) 25 wins and their first Big West regular season title last season.

  7. Four-star 2015 power forward to visit Cal, Texas and Washington

    May 23, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Scott Phillips/NBC Sports Scott Phillips/NBC Sports

    Noah Dickerson had previously committed to Georgetown and Florida.

  8. Max Bielfeldt down to three

    May 23, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    The former Wolverine could remain in the Big Ten.

  9. Frank Kaminsky writes a farewell letter to Wisconsin fans

    May 23, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT

    150523_Kaminsky Getty Images

    The Wisconsin big man averaged 16.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game in his last two seasons.

  10. Derrick Walton’s foot appears to be better (VIDEO)

    May 23, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP Photo

    The sophomore guard missed the final 12 games of the season.

  11. Rashad Muhammad transferring from San Jose State

    May 23, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    AP AP

    He is the younger brother of former UCLA Bruin Shabazz Muhammad.

  12. Nevada lands transfer forward from the Ivy League

    May 22, 2015, 10:30 PM EDT

    image Getty Images

    Nevada landed an impact transfer that could help at guard after next season.

  13. Arizona announces 2015-16 non-conference schedule

    May 22, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Arizona will have some intriguing home-and-home games to go along with an in-season tournament.

  14. Cliff Alexander opens up on his suspension at Kansas

    May 22, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Cliff Alexander might have returned for his sophomore season if the NCAA had not been involved.

  15. Kentucky promotes former Auburn coach to assistant coach

    May 22, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    Tony Barbee AP

    Kentucky promoted a familiar face for the open assistant spot.

  16. Class of 2016 forward decommits from Nebraska

    May 22, 2015, 5:45 PM EDT

    keanu pinder

    Nebraska loses a commitment who could be headed elsewhere soon.

  17. Georgia, Mark Fox agree to contract extension through 2020

    May 22, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Mark Fox AP

    Fox has led the Bulldogs to two NCAA tournament appearances in his six years as head coach, including last season’s 21-win team.

  18. Former Bradley guard to complete eligibility at Rutgers

    May 22, 2015, 2:40 PM EDT

    Darius Carter, Zach Brown, Omari Grier AP

    The Rutgers perimeter rotation may be crowded, but there’s plenty of room for contributions as the team won just ten games last season.

  19. North Carolina announces receipt of Notice of Allegations from NCAA

    May 22, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    UNC now has 90 days to craft a response to the NCAA’s allegations.