Mbakwe leads Gophers to comeback win

The senior forward had 16 points and 12 rebounds as the Gophers defeated DePaul, 86-85.

Charlie Armitz

Gophers head coach Tubby Smith said before the start of the 2011-12 season that he wanted his team to run more.

Minnesota did plenty of that Thursday in an 86-85 win over DePaul in the first round of the Old Spice Classic.

In a game defined by fast breaks, full-court pressure and turnovers, the Gophers used a 53-point second half to rally from 12 points down and squeak out its first win away from home.

Trevor Mbakwe had with 16 points on 6-for-7 shooting and a team-high 12 rebounds. He scored seven of the team’s last 14 points.

The 6-foot-8 senior also drew a charge with 13 seconds left that all but sealed the win. With DePaul’s Cleveland Melvin driving toward the hoop, Mbakwe planted his feet just outside the restricted area inside the paint and absorbed the contact. That gave possession back to Minnesota, which led 84-83.

Backup point guard Julian Welch was fouled on the next play and missed both free throws. But Rodney Williams, who led the Gophers with 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, grabbed the offensive rebound and made a putback layup to extend Minnesota’s lead to 86-83.

Aside from the missed free throws, Welch had his best game in a Minnesota uniform, scoring 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting. He thoroughly outplayed Andre Hollins, the Gophers’ starting point guard, who shot 1-for-5 with two points, zero assists and three fouls.

Minnesota trailed 43-33 at the half and had 11 turnovers. In the second half, the Gophers did a better job of handling DePaul’s pressure and converted a number of opportunities in transition. They finished with 17 turnovers, while DePaul finished with 16.

Indiana State, which defeated Texas Tech earlier Thursday, will play Minnesota tomorrow for a spot in the Sunday’s championship game.