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Big Ten tournament pregame: Gophers still searching for go-to guy

Minnesota played within four points of Illinois at Williams Arena on Feb. 10.

The Gophers were missing Rodney Williams, but the senior likely wouldn't have provided the spark Minnesota needed at the end of the game.

Williams’ stats have regressed since his junior year — as he's down in scoring, rebounds, field goal percentage, assists and steals, while playing three minutes less per game.

Coach Tubby Smith touted the team’s depth, but not one of the 10-plus guys Smith plays on a given night have stepped up – including Williams.

“I thought I could be [the go-to guy],” Williams said. “Being one of the veteran guys that have been here, I felt like I could be. But that’s hard to say with the depth we’ve got.”

Smith spoke with the media Wednesday and seemed despondent about how Williams will respond with the senior’s window closing.

“I’ve been trying for four years,” Smith said. “I think it’s just a matter of him staying focused.”

Williams has been battling a shoulder injury much of the season – and while it can be an excuse, it has clearly effected his play on the court.

The senior has been held scoreless in three of his last six games heading into Thursday’s matchup against Illinois.

Sophomore Andre Hollins has been the best the Gophers can get with a go-to guy, but Smith still denied that he’s the man they want in the clutch.

“We don’t have that one guy,” Smith said. “We’ve been looking for him, but we don’t have that one guy. If we did, trust me, I’d be using that guy. Andre Hollins is the one that gives us the most versatility, but that’s about it.”  

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