Tubby tells ranked Gophers to keep working

Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Gophers came home with plenty of confidence after beating some big-name teams in a tropical tournament over the weekend.

Coach Tubby Smith is doing his best to keep his players from getting too comfortable.

The Gophers cracked the national rankings this week at No. 15, as high as they’ve been since their run to the Final Four in 1997. Beating Western Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off tournament helped them improve to 5-0, but the season has barely begun.

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“Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it certainly can be destroyed in a short period of time if you don’t work at your game,” Smith said Tuesday.

The Gophers played last weekend without suspended junior guard Devoe Joseph, one of their best and most versatile players. Smith said he’s unsure if he’ll clear Joseph to play North Dakota State on Wednesday.

“I don’t know when we’re going to see him. I’ve got to do some evaluation of what he did academically last week,” Smith said.

Junior forward Trevor Mbakwe, finally able to participate after a legal tangle kept him off the court all last season, has stepped in as the team’s most complete and most consistent player. Mbakwe was named the Big Ten’s Co-Player of the Week after averaging 15.3 points and 8.7 rebounds over the three games in Puerto Rico.

“He’s got the physique. He’s got the mental toughness. He’s got the physical toughness,” Smith said. “I think he gets the most out of his athleticism.”