Minnesota’s men’s basketball team walked onto the court Tuesday night versus Arkansas-Little Rock with something to prove after an 80-60 loss to Nebraska on Sunday.
Unfortunately for the Gophers, so did a pair of Minnesotans playing for the Trojans.
Guards Jibrahn Ike and Tony Travis – both from Minneapolis – did their best to put Minnesota on a losing streak, but ended up disappearing when the game was in the balance. Minnesota won in overtime 86-84.
“I definitely came out with something to prove,” Ike said. “We wanted to prove we could play with this team, and I think we did.”
Ike, who attended St. Anthony High School, led the way for the Trojans with 20 points in 27 minutes of play. He carried his team in the first half, coming out firing and heading into the locker room with 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Travis, a former student at Patrick Henry, scored 14 points, hitting all three of his three-point attempts at key junctures of the game.
Both of them nearly disappeared in the early part of the second half. But Nick Zachery took it upon himself to keep the Trojans close.
Ike was suffocated by the Minnesota defense in the second half and wound up fouling out after only managing five second-half points.
“I figured if he can’t touch the ball, he can’t be a threat,” said Gopher guard Maurice Hargrow, who played a big role in shutting down Ike in the second half. “I did whatever I could to keep the ball out of his hands.”
Ike exited the game after being called for his fourth foul with about nine minutes remaining in the game. He returned briefly four minutes later, hit a tough three-pointer over a crowding Ben Johnson to knot the score at 71 then fouled out with 1:58 left in regulation.
“I could only root for my teammates,” Ike said. “But I felt like we were still in the game.”
Travis put Arkansas-Little Rock in front by seven with 8:25 remaining on a fast-break layup, but he wouldn’t score for the remainder of the game.
“I knew we were going to come out and compete,” Travis said. “It feels real good (to give Minnesota a challenge). I’m glad they gave us a shot by signing the contract to play us.”
Not only did Ike and Travis give Minnesota a challenge, but they got to do it in front of family and friends from their high school days.
Ike was a Nike and McDonald’s All-American his senior year for St. Anthony. That year, he averaged 35 points per game and was courted by the Gophers but didn’t qualify academically and was forced to play for Southeastern Community College.
In his freshman year, he won a National Junior College Athletic Association national championship and was a Junior College All-American his sophomore year before transferring to Arkansas-Little Rock.
Asked if he would like to have stayed closer to home for college ball, Ike didn’t think twice.
“It’s good to come back and play in front of the family,” Ike said. “But it feels good enough just to play this one game.”
Taylor led Patrick Henry to a state title and was all-state and the Class 3A player of the year as a senior. He attended Northeastern Junior College before signing up to play for Porter Moser and the Trojans.
“The two Minneapolis kids really made a difference tonight,” Moser said. “Jibrahn and Tony played with such confidence. Those kids were key to us, and I’ll take their efforts with anybody’s.”