Starters struggle while reserves sit

Andrew Krammer

MADISON, Wis. — Rodney Williams said confidence isn’t the problem in his team’s four-game losing streak.

“We won 15 games coming into this losing streak,” Williams said. “We beat some pretty good teams. I don’t think it’s confidence.”

Three Gophers starters — Williams, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman — combined to shoot 2-for-22 from the field in Saturday’s loss at Wisconsin.

As shot after shot clanked and rolled off the rim, coach Tubby Smith stuck with his top five and entrusted them to win the game.

Smith showed a lack of confidence in his bench, even though reserve point guard Maverick Ahanmisi hit back-to-back three pointers during a two-minute stretch in the first half. Ahanmisi played seven minutes in the loss.

At times, Smith played reserve Elliott Eliason at center and starters Trevor Mbakwe and Williams at the two forward positions.

Eliason doubled his Big Ten scoring total in the loss, shooting 2-for-2 for four points in 12 minutes.

When Ahanmisi and Eliason sat, the Gophers’ starters failed to produce in their place. Williams was especially ineffective, shooting 0-for-6, including a couple of questionable three-point attempts.

In his postgame press conference, Smith alluded to the fact that his starters’ struggles extend beyond this one loss.

“[Austin Hollins] is probably still in a funk from fouling out in the game at Northwestern,” Smith said. “Rodney’s been in a funk for a few games.”