The one-point loss stung, especially considering it marked the team’s fourth consecutive defeat. In addition, star forward and sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe had to be taken out of the game in the waning seconds, nursing his wrist with uncertainty hanging in the balance.
Injuries have plagued Mbakwe throughout his career, including a torn ACL which sidelined him for nearly the entire season a year ago. However, it appears that Mbakwe and Minnesota expect to have their forward in the lineup moving forward. According to various reports, Mbakwe hurt his wrist, but no real damage was done.
“He’s fine,” head coach Tubby Smith said. “He practiced (Sunday). It wasn’t damaged in any way previously in the fall at Northwestern. But it was sore, and he had it wrapped up. He got whacked on it pretty good there.”
The opportunity to rebound this week is at the forefront for the Gophers as home contest against both Nebraska and Iowa are virtual must-wins. As for Mbakwe himself, he told the Star Tribune that, “I don’t expect to miss any games for this.”
At 15-5 overall and 3-4 within the conference, Minnesota needs to stop the bleeding this week and get back on track. Mbakwe is a key piece to that equation averaging 9.9 points and a team-high 8.7 rebounds per game, so the news of his injury and the positives in the situation are a bright spot for the Gophers.
Follow Paul Seaver on Twitter: @PaulSeaverRS