Nolen solid on both sides of the ball

Coach tubby smith said Al Nolen is as good a defender as he's ever coached.

After missing some time because of a minor leg injury, freshman point guard Al Nolen returned on Saturday in a big way.

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Illinois
what: Men’s basketball
when: 8 p.m., Tuesday
where: Williams Arena

Nolen sparked the Gophers’ late game push with his tenacious defense and nifty passing after the Hawkeyes took their first lead of the game with 11 minutes remaining.

“Al Nolen came up absolutely huge. He’s been big for us all year,” Tollackson said.

The freshman guard filled up the stat book by shooting 4-of-6 from the field for 11 points, dishing out a career-high eight assists, grabbing four rebounds and obtaining three steals.

“(Nolen) is as good of an on-the-ball defender as I have ever coached,” Smith said.

New lineup continues

For the second-straight game, senior guard Lawrence McKenzie and junior forward Damian Johnson were left out of the starting lineup, replaced by junior guard Jamal Abu-Shamala and freshman guard Blake Hoffarber.

And for the second-straight game, the lineup seemed to have worked out, as the Gophers now have won two games in a row.

The new lineup caused more minutes to be spread out, which led to three of Minnesota’s players scoring 11 points apiece, in McKenzie, Tollackson and Nolen. Senior forward Dan Coleman also chipped in 10 points.

“I don’t worry about lineups, I just see who’s playing well and can give us a lift.” Smith said.