Found December 12, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
MINNEAPOLIS After his second put-back dunk of the night, Gophers senior Trevor Mbakwe let out a yell, as if to announce to the college basketball world that he is back. Minnesota fans have seen him do that plenty before, vocalizing his emotion after a big play. It's happened infrequently this year, though, as Mbakwe is still trying to work his way back from a torn ACL that sidelined him for most of last season. Slowly but surely, Mbakwe is regaining his old form. Tuesday was perhaps the best example of that, as the senior grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds six offensive boards and added 14 points in Minnesota's 70-57 win over visiting North Dakota State. "Trevor's intensity has definitely picked up," said fellow senior Rodney Williams. "He's been stepping up in the big games when we need him to, like he used to. It's just good to have him back out there and have him looking like the old Trev." The old Mbakwe (that's not a reference to the 23-year-old's age) was the Big Ten's leading rebounder two seasons ago when he grabbed 10.5 boards per game. Before his injury last season, he was rebounding at a clip of 9.1 per game. Prior to Tuesday, Mbakwe had just three games in which he tallied double-digit rebounds. But he was a different player Tuesday. He was getting offensive rebounds including the two put-back dunks and hustling into the corners of the Williams Arena court for loose balls. The basketball just seemed to find Mbakwe on Tuesday. It might not have actually been that easy, but the fifth-year senior made it look that way. "I just wanted to come out and play with energy," Mbakwe said. "We got off to a slow start and I kind of wanted to come in and be an energy guy. I was able to get some rebounds pretty early. In the second half, they called my number and I made the most of my opportunity." It's probably safe to say that Mbakwe is the best bench player in the Big Ten, if not the country. Through 12 games, Mbakwe has yet to start. Tuesday, though, he saw extended minutes with several of the Gophers' starters, including Williams. The senior duo combined for 33 of Minnesota's 70 points and 24 of the Gophers' 43 rebounds. Playing with one another seems to make each other's games better. It sure did Tuesday. "He takes pressure off me," Mbakwe said of Williams. "Most teams are locked in on one of us, but they have to respect the other guy. We kind of feed off each other pretty well." If Mbakwe continues to play this well, it'll be hard for Smith to keep him on the bench much longer. After a slow start to the season in which he scored in single figures for Minnesota's first four games, Mbakwe is getting more minutes and making the most of them. On top of his 14-point, 18-rebound effort, he also added a block, a steal and an assist in 21 minutes. Mbakwe insists it doesn't matter if he's starting or coming off the bench. Smith, meanwhile, reiterated that he likes Mbakwe entering the game as a reserve. "He's the best rebounder I've ever coached. I say that all the time," Smith said. "He's very patient in the post. He looked good doing that. He's learning to do other things, develop other parts of his game other than just sheer power. I like him coming off the bench right now." While Williams was giving his team a spark with a highlight reel 360-degree dunk, it was Mbakwe leading by example with his hustle and tough play near the basket. As a fifth-year senior, he's doing the little things that are rubbing off on his teammates. "We feed off of everything every hustle play, people diving for the ball," said sophomore guard Andre Hollins. "We're trying to play aggressive defense, and that (excitement) on our end might make the offense pick it up. It helps us." There are some critics who say Mbakwe will never be the same player he was before his injury, when he led the Big Ten in rebounding and was a force to be reckoned with in the post. Early on this year, he indeed looked slow. He lacked that explosiveness that made him a special player earlier in his Gophers career. Tuesday's effort was a bit of a statement by Mbakwe. He knows what's been written about him, and he's out to prove the naysayers wrong. "Coach always tells me don't get too high or too low on yourself," Mbakwe said. "Sometimes I read it, but I don't put too much into it. It just adds more fuel to the fire. It motivates me in a good way. I'm focused." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
THE BACKYARD
BEST OF MAXIM
RELATED ARTICLES

Gophers Mbakwe back near 100 percent

MINNEAPOLIS After his second put-back dunk of the night, Gophers senior Trevor Mbakwe let out a yell, as if to announce to the college basketball world that he is back. Minnesota fans have seen him do that plenty before, vocalizing his emotion after a big play. It's happened infrequently this year, though, as Mbakwe is still trying to work his way back from a torn ACL that...

Mbakwe plays above the rim in NDSU victory

Heading into a sizeable dearth of game activity in which they only play two games in two games in 20 days, the Gophers first made quick work of the North Dakota State Bison 70-57 in a sort-of-close-but-not-really victory at Williams Arena. Now finals week can commence and the players can focus on getting their schoolwork [...]

Video: Minnesota player pulls off 360-degree dunk

On Tuesday, Minnesota played host to North Dakota State in a little roundball action. Minnesota won the game, 70-57, and did so partly because of this 360-degree dunk by senior forward Rodney Williams Jr.Watch as Williams picks off a pass and then proceeds to take it all the way to the other end and finishes with an acrobatic flush. The landing didn't go so well, but who cares...
HEAVY ROTATION

Gophers' Rodney Williams with a 360 dunk

Minnesota's Rodney Williams scored a season-high 19 points, including this 360-degree dunk against ND State last night. No. 13 Minnesota beat North Dakota State, 70-57. **Follow us on... Full story at Bob's Blitz ~ http://www.bobsblitz.com

Rodney Williams Jr. of Minnesota With 360 Dunk - SportsCenter Top Play (Video)

Rodney Williams Jr. had a big night last night dropping 19 points in the Minnesota Golden Gophers 70-57 win over North Dakota State.  Rodney got recognized as the SportsCenter top play with his 360 dunk on the fast break in the video below. The victory moved Minnesota to 11-1, and they sit in the 4th spot in the Big 10 standings. Check out our Home Page for more stories...

Freshman Ellenson could still make an impact

MINNEAPOLIS So much for that redshirt. Gophers freshman Wally Ellenson made his college basketball debut Tuesday, checking into the game against North Dakota State with 3:44 left in the second half. There was speculation that Ellenson would redshirt after breaking his hand in late October, but he's no longer eligible for a redshirt season since he played in Tuesday's 70...

Minnesota Senior Rodney Williams Jr. Humblebrags After 360 Dunk

In the likely case you weren’t watching the Minnesota vs. North Dakota State game last night, we’ve got you covered. Minnesota senior forward Rodney Williams Jr. threw down a ridiculous 360 dunk. The crowd went nuts, Golden Gophers fans were pumped and YouTube viewers paid respect to one of the better dunks of the young college basketball season. As for Williams, he didn’t...

Gophers outmuscle, overwhelm NDSU

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- The only reason Rodney Williams became an inside player for Minnesota was Trevor Mbakwe's torn-up knee. Playing together in the post for the first time in their college career, Mbakwe and Williams are turning into quite the pair for the 13th-ranked Gophers. Williams scored a season-high 19 points, including a 360-degree dunk off a fast break, and Mbakwe...

Gophers make it 76 years and counting

Rodney Williams scored a season-high 19 points, including a 360-degree dunk off a fast break, and Trevor Mbakwe grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead 13th-ranked Minnesota past North Dakota State 70-57 on Tuesday night. Mbakwe added 14 points and Andre Hollins had 11 for the Gophers (11-1), who have won 16 straight games in this series, last losing in 1936. Lawrence Alexander...

Up to #13, Gophers need to survive two more games to reach the top 10.

On their slow and deliberate march towards the top ten, the Golden Gophers have three obstacles in their way. The first two are North Dakota State and Lafayette. The third is finals week. Coming off their second true road win of the season, the team is in the enviable position of only needing to take care of business on the court and in the classroom. The hard part of the non-conference...

Former Gophers Andy Brink’s thought’s on college hockey and the WCHA

English: Logo for the University of Minnesota (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Which the formation of the Big Ten Hockey Conference and the formation of the NCHC, the WCHA is going to have a very different look to it starting for the 2013-14 season. I had the opportunity to interview Former Golden Gopher forward Andy Brink and you’re going to find that he has some interesting...

WCHA Web Media Poll: Week 9

Each week, I participate in a WCHA Web Media Poll that is put on by the Tech Hockey Guide with 11 other people that represent both the print media as well as the hockey blogosphere. This week, Denver drops two places from the top spot after getting a single point in Grand Forks last weekend. The Minnesota Gophers are again the top team according to the voters. The University...

Rodney Williams throws down 360 dunk on fast break

Minnesota, and its forward Rodney Williams, are off to a heck of a start. The Gophers are 11-1 on the year with victories over Florida State, Memphis and Stanford. Meanwhile, Rodney Williams Jr. is the teams second leading scorer at 13.4.Although he was only rewarded to points for this 360 dunk against North Dakota State, Williams shows us why he is an NBA prospect with his size...
Golden Gophers News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.