Carter stepping up in increased role

Things almost went very wrong for the Gophers on Tuesday. Playing last-place Indiana at home, the teamâÄôs two leading scorers, Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson, couldnâÄôt score. Rebounds were tough to come by. And despite IndianaâÄôs sloppy game and season-high turnovers, the Gophers only scored 27 points in the first half and even trailed in the second. Had it not been for sophomore Paul Carter, they may well have lost to the Hoosiers, a loss which wouldâÄôve nearly knocked them out of contention for an NCAA Tournament bid. But Carter scored a career-high 22 points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Westbrook and Johnson combined for just four points. Besides Ralph Sampson III, no other player had more than two rebounds, either. âÄúSometimes as a coach you have to wait and see whoâÄôs going to step up as that guy to lead you,âÄù coach Tubby Smith said after that game. âÄúPaul was inspirational in his efforts tonight. He was taking charges, diving for loose balls, and thatâÄôs the kind of play we need to have.âÄù Carter, a junior college transfer, has had his minutes increase as his teammates have struggled and could be a big part in reviving a struggling Gophers offense. That starts Saturday, when they play at Penn State, at 12:30 p.m. on the Big Ten Network. Smith said Friday that he would âÄúpossiblyâÄù start Carter if the matchups were right, and added that he has actually played more minutes than some starters. The main candidate to be replaced would be freshman center Colton Iverson, who played just 12 minutes Tuesday. Another possibility would be Johnson, who played an uncharacteristic 16 minutes Tuesday. Smith has stuck with the same starting lineup of Al Nolen, Westbrook, Johnson, Iverson and Sampson the entire Big Ten season, but the Gophers have averaged less than 57 points per game their last three games and might need a change. The problem, Smith said, is that the lineup really needs an outside shooting threat, which Carter isnâÄôt. At 6-foot-8 and 195 pounds, Carter plays like a power forward, but is undersized among Big Ten big men, which may be a reason for his inconsistent scoring. âÄúThe Big Ten is pretty fast and physical,âÄù Carter said. âÄúFor me, trying to play inside, I need to gain some weight. ItâÄôs a physical league, and the referees let you play. You have to play strong.âÄù Carter transferred from Missouri State-West Plains junior college this season, as one of five newcomers to the team. He had some interest from Division I schools coming out of high school, but went to a junior college to get his academics in order. Smith discovered him at a junior college showcase camp, where Carter played on the same team as fellow-Gophers newcomer Devron Bostick. Carter wasnâÄôt even invited to the tournament (he came as an alternate), while Bostick was named the National Junior College Player of the Year, but Carter has averaged almost double the points of the junior Bostick. In fact, in the Big Ten, he is the leading scorer among the five newcomers. âÄúWe have to have guys like Carter,âÄù Smith said Friday. âÄúWe have to do the little things better and he did that. I can take anything but a guy not working hard. As long as heâÄôs working hard, heâÄôs going to play.âÄù