With Grier’s return to the floor, minutes get redistributed

Senior guard Vincent Grier played 36 minutes in his return from a hand injury.

by C.J. Spang

With the return of senior guard Vincent Grier, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team finally had the depth it needed to be competitive for a solid 40 minutes.

In games against Gardner-Webb and Maryland ” the first two games without their star senior ” the Gophers showed obvious signs of fatigue down the stretch that contributed to the pair of losses.

But Saturday’s game allowed Minnesota to use a new six-man rotation that included Grier, sophomore guard Rico Tucker and sophomore forward Dan Coleman, who had all missed games for various reasons.

Grier played an impressive 36 minutes even though the bone in his shooting hand was not completely healed.

“(The doctors) told him he could play in five-minute spurts tonight and we honored that the first half,” coach Dan Monson said. “And with time outs, we honored it the second half.”

Grier’s return gave his teammates some much needed rest they were unable to get in the past few games.

Senior guard Adam Boone played 38 minutes, a slight break from the 44 he played against Arizona State. Senior forward J’son Stamper played 29 minutes, sophomore forward Coleman logged 28 minutes off the bench, sophomore guard Tucker played 28 minutes and sophomore center Spencer Tollackson played 26 minutes.

Because of the added depth, the freshmen saw their time decrease dramatically.

Jamal Abu-Shamala played eight minutes and made a three-pointer, his only attempt from the field; Brandon Smith played five minutes and Jonathan Williams played just two minutes.

And once senior guard Maurice Hargrow returns, the freshmen are likely to see their minutes decrease even more.

One person who proved he deserves every one of his minutes was Stamper.

While his stat sheet may not have been overly impressive, it was the little things he did that helped the Gophers in their win over University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Stamper was tenacious on the boards, pulling down five rebounds, four on the offensive glass.

With Minnesota trailing 48-47 with 11:10 remaining in the game, Stamper went in for the rebound on a missed three-pointer by Coleman.

Stamper was fouled and made both of his free throws in the one-and-one situation, giving the Gophers the lead for good.

After a Rebels turnover, Minnesota came back down the court, and Stamper made a tough lay-up to increase the Gophers’ lead.

“That’s part of our identity ” defense, toughness and scrappiness,” Stamper said. “I try to bring as much of that to the table as possible.”

Stamper had a career-high three steals against UNLV, as Minnesota forced 21 turnovers.

“Twenty-one turnovers is way too many,” UNLV coach Lon Kruger said. “You just can’t afford to do that against a good club, especially on the road.”

The Gophers tied their season high with 13 steals in the game; all five starters had at least two steals on the afternoon.

But Minnesota was far from perfect in the game. The Gophers shot a paltry 63 percent from the free-throw line.

Minnesota is averaging 63.5 percent on the season, while their opponents have averaged 67.3 percent.

“I think free throws are so much about everybody personally and getting the right guys there,” Monson said. “I think we got some guys that are not as confident as they need to be.”

And Monson knows his team has to improve if they want to compete the rest of the season.

“We’ve got a long ways to go to be the basketball team we need to be when we hit the Big Ten,” Monson said.