Eliason injures ankle, questionable for NIT semifinal

Jace Frederick

Elliott Eliason gingerly strolled through the Bierman Field Athletic Building on Saturday afternoon with his left foot in a walking boot.

Eliason turned his left ankle in practice Thursday when he came down on it awkwardly, head coach Richard Pitino said.

Eliason wasn’t practicing as of Saturday, but Pitino said he doesn’t think the injury is as bad as the ankle sprain junior guard Andre Hollins sustained in the middle of the season, which caused him to miss two games.

“We’ve just got to be leery of it and watch it,” Pitino said. “We’ve got to get him healthy.”

Eliason’s presence will be a necessity for the Gophers in the National Invitation Tournament semifinals Tuesday against Florida State — the third-tallest team in the nation, according to KenPom.com

“If he can’t play full minutes, can he give us 10 [to] 15 minutes?” Pitino said. “That’s huge for us, because we need a backup center. We can’t have Mo [Walker] play 40 minutes.”

Walker isn’t a bad option to turn to for heavy minutes if Eliason can’t give it a full go. Walker has turned into an offensive force for the Gophers down low of late. He delivered a 12-point effort in Minnesota’s victory over Southern Mississippi.

Pitino said Walker — the backup center for most of the season — is likely to get the starting nod Tuesday with Eliason unable to practice.