Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/11/13
MINNEAPOLIS Trevor Mbakwe heard the rumors just like everyone else did. After Minnesota's convincing win over No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday, word was going around that Mbakwe broke his hand. It would have been a devastating blow for Mbakwe and the ninth-ranked Gophers if it were true. "That was news to me," Mbakwe said Friday of the rumor. "I woke up the next day, and I got tweets that said, 'How's your broken hand? Someone reported your hand was broken.' I looked at (my hand) and I said, 'It looks fine to me.' " Mbakwe said he jammed his finger before Wednesday's game against Illinois, but it clearly didn't have much of an impact on his play. The Gophers big man scored 19 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds to help eighth-ranked Minnesota get an 84-67 road win over the Fighting Illini. Now the test gets tougher for both Mbakwe and the Gophers as they head to Bloomington, Ind., to take on the No. 5 Hoosiers. Indiana's roster is filled with some of the top players in the Big Ten, none better than Cody Zeller. The 7-foot sophomore was picked as the national player of the year by many media outlets and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, decked in red-and-white striped Hoosiers pants. He's a consensus lottery pick in the NBA Draft, possibly even the No. 1 overall choice. Mbakwe will be tasked with trying to limit Zeller's production, which few players in the country have been able to do this year. But Mbakwe has gone against the Big Ten's elite in the past. Saturday is just the latest test for the Gophers' fifth-year senior, who didn't face Zeller last year after tearing his ACL prior to the conference season. "I think we're going to cancel each other out pretty well," Mbakwe said of Zeller. "I'm just looking forward to the challenge of playing Indiana as a whole." At 6-foot-8, Mbakwe gives up four inches to Zeller, but their stats are very similar. Mbakwe leads the Big Ten in offensive rebounds (3.0 per game), while Zeller is third (2.7). Both average 7.9 rebounds per game. And Mbakwe's 1.4 blocked shots per game are slightly more than Zeller's 1.3. The big difference is Zeller's 16.5 points per game to Mbakwe's 9.3. "Obviously he's a great player, so he's going to get what he gets," Mbakwe said. "But just try to affect him as much as I can and kind of disrupt the offense a little bit. It's a big challenge for myself, and I'm up for it." Minnesota has already proven its legitimacy as one of the Big Ten's best teams with Wednesday's win at Illinois. The Gophers also beat then-No. 18 Michigan State in the Big Ten opener on Dec. 31 and handled Northwestern at home. Now 3-0 in conference play, the only thing standing in the way of Minnesota improving to 4-0 is the nation's top-scoring offense. The Hoosiers are averaging 87.0 points per game, tops in college basketball. Five players are averaging in double figures, led by Zeller's 16.5. Indiana is also one of the top rebounding teams, grabbing 41.9 boards per game. The Hoosiers' lone slip-up this season was an 88-86 overtime loss to Butler on a neutral court that cost them their No. 1 ranking. Rankings didn't seem to matter the last time these two teams played at Assembly Hall. Without an injured Mbakwe, Minnesota upset the No. 8 team in the country, 77-74. Making the win even more unexpected was the fact that the Gophers were on the heels of a four-game losing streak to start Big Ten play. Zeller scored 23 points in the loss, while Austin Hollins led Minnesota with 18 points. Now that the Gophers visit as a top 10 team, it's sure to become an even more boisterous environment at Assembly Hall. "I was just like, 'God, they're so loud.' I think it's one of the best atmospheres in the nation," said sophomore point guard Andre Hollins, who leads Minnesota in scoring this season but had just three points in that win against Indiana a year ago. "They're definitely very loud. They're rowdy. It's going to be tough. We just have to come in and stay focused and composed and execute." After Saturday's game against Indiana, Minnesota will return home to host the Michigan Wolverines, currently the No. 2 team in the nation. It's as tough a three-game stretch as the Gophers will have this season. "The Big Ten is obviously outstanding this year," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "We know we've got to play a lot better than we did against Illinois to have any chance at all." Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Chris Sale says White Sox put business over winning

Report: Peterson likely entering last season with Vikings

Cubs trade for Chapman a risk, but potential payoff too hard to ignore

White Sox fan wears a fantastic taped-up Chris Sale jersey

Wisconsin kicker will wear 27 to honor Nebraska's Sam Foltz

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Dennis Schroder wears disguise to play in German streetball tournament

Browns indicate they will give Josh Gordon another chance

Prince Fielder to undergo season-ending neck surgery

Eagles want Carson Wentz to be 'starter ready' Week 1

Report: 49ers concerned Anthony Davis will quit again

Did Manning hurt NFLPA's case in HGH investigations?

Five NFL sophomores poised to break out in 2016

Tre Mason's family concerned about RB's mental health?

Dion Waiters' deal signals the end of the 2016 money grab

Tom Jackson could leave ESPN after almost three decades

Cavs sign coach Tyronn Lue to a five-year extension

More than 10,000 people registered for Jaguars Pokemon Go night

NFL issues new concussion protocol

Angels listening to offers on Hector Santiago

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

Kevin Durant’s OKC restaurant will be closed, rebranded

Lamar Odom said to be held back by one 'toxic friend'

Mario Balotelli crashes Liverpool fans' wedding

College Basketball 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!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Effect of ban on Russia could span beyond the Olympic Games

One Gotta Go: NBA players hate Facebook too

QUIZ: Name every city to host the NBA All-Star Game

One Gotta Go: NBA players settle the fast food beef

One Gotta Go: NBA players make tough choices on their favorite rappers

One Gotta Go: NBA Summer League is not about that Game of Thrones life

The top NHL free agents available as offseason winds down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker