It may have taken him a few weeks, but Ralph Sampson III is back in business.
Sampson had 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and four blocks as Minnesota defeated St. Peter’s 69-47 Saturday at Williams Arena.
It was Sampson’s second game back from an ankle injury and his first game in the starting lineup since Nov. 27.
The senior is averaging just 7.5 points and 4.4 rebounds in 20.1 minutes this season, but with Trevor Mbakwe out for the season, he could become the team’s primary scorer and rebounder.
“Getting Ralph back in the lineup today was a big help,” head coach Tubby Smith said. “It was a real good day for him … But I expect him to play this well.”
Sampson, who played 24 minutes in the win, said his ankle was “about 97 percent” healthy after the game.
“He seems to be moving better,” Smith said. “I think his stamina and his wind needs to continue to get better.”
Sampson and guard Julian Welch combined to score Minnesota’s first 14 points. The Gophers gained an 11-point halftime lead despite Rodney Williams being held scoreless for the first 15 minutes.
Williams, who had averaged 14.7 points and 7.7 rebounds in his previous three games, had an off night with 10 points on 4-for-9 shooting. All four of his rebounds came on the offensive end.
Freshman point guard Andre Hollins, who tweaked his ankle in a Dec. 3 game against Southern California, sat out Saturday’s game. Maverick Ahanmisi started in his place and scored three points in 28 minutes.
Smith said Hollins also tweaked his ankle in Tuesday’s game against Appalachian State and then again in practice Friday.
“We have had a lot of ankle problems, a lot of injuries,” Smith said. “Seems like we always have someone sitting out.”
Welch, who started at shooting guard, added 11 points for the Gophers, but his streak of consecutive-made free throws ended at 25.
Minnesota held the Peacocks to 3-for-11 shooting from long range, one game after allowing Appalachian State to hit nine of 21 triples.
Despite some inconsistencies, the Gophers (10-1) have dominated at Williams Arena, posting an 8-0 record. They have won all but one of their home games by double digits.
Minnesota is also the first Big Ten team to win 10 games in 2011-12 and one of five teams in the conference with no more than one loss.
Two home games remain before Minnesota heads to Illinois for its first conference game and first true road game of the season.
Smith said the team’s focus heading into Big Ten play is to improve its shooting, both from the free-throw line and from beyond the arc.
The Gophers have shot 69 percent from the free-throw line and 32 percent from 3-point range since Mbakwe’s injury, but they have continued to control the paint without their star forward.
UMN students have traveled to Florida colleges to collaborate with students on various projects.
When UMN students plan for a vacation, having trip cancellation travel insurance is a worthwhile commodity to check out.
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