INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 10: Head coach Tubby Smith of the Minnesota Golden Gophers looks on against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first round of the 2011 Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Conseco Fieldhouse on March 10, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Golden Gophers Beat Hokies 58-55 Without Trevor Mbakwe

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Minnesota Vs. Virginia Tech Final Score: Golden Gophers Beat Hokies 58-55 In Big Ten/ACC Challenge

In their first game since losing star senior forward Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending torn ACL, the Minnesota Golden Gophers valiantly defeated the visiting Virginia Tech Hokies 58-55 on Wednesday night in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

Minnesota jumped to an 8-0 lead to start the game, but they trailed 28-25 at halftime, and the game went back and forth in the final tense moments. A big Rodney Williams dunk gave Minnesota a 54-53 lead late but Erick Green responded with a layup to give Virginia Tech a 55-54 advantage with 19 seconds to go. A pair of Julian Welch free throws gave the lead 56-55 back to Minnesota and then Robert Brown was called for an over-and-back violation, turning it back to the Gophers. Welch made both free throws and Green's game-tying three point attempt missed, securing victory for Minnesota.

A balanced offensive effort carried the night for the Gophers, who were led by Welch's 15 points. Welch was on point all night making 5-6 from the field and 4-4 from the line. The frontcourt tandem of Elliott Eliason and Rodney Williams also stamped a mark on the game with a combined 22 points and 15 rebounds, helping ease the pain of Mbakwe's absence for the time-being.

Minnesota overcame a major three-point shooting disparity in Virginia Tech's favor, as the Hokies made 8-17 from long range compared to just 2-13 for the Golden Gophers.

The Golden Gophers, 7-1, recovered nicely from their first loss of the season, an 86-70 decision to the Dayton Flyers. The Hokies dropped to 5-2 and lost for the for first time since falling to the No. 5 Syracuse Orangeman a week ago.

Green led all scorers with 25 points and made 4-8 three pointers for the Hokies.

Minnesota, now 5-0 at home this season, next hosts the USC Trojans on Friday.

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Trevor Mbakwe Injury Will Force Golden Gophers To Play Small Ball

The Trevor Mbakwe injury will force the Minnesota Golden Gophers to alter their game plan for the remainder of the season. The senior star suffered a torn ACL over the weekend, leaving head coach Tubby Smith very few options as he attempts to keep the men's basketball season on track.

Smith held a press conference on Tuesday to talk about Mbakwe's injury and, while revealing that fellow big man Ralph Sampson III hasn't been able to practice this week, he said that playing a smaller lineup will be likely during the ACC vs. Big Ten Challenge.

"We won't change much, we just won't have that inside presence that Trevor gave us because I'm still not sure about Ralph's status," Smith said at the press conference. "(Sampson) didn't practice yesterday, and he probably won't practice today, so he may not play (Wednesday)."

Junior Rodney Williams will probably be moved over to the power forward and Eliott Eliason will start at center if Sampson isn't able to play. Julian Welch has apparently earned the other vacant spot in the starting lineup.

"Rodney's (role) might change a little bit, but it might help him get a rebound putting him at the (power forward) spot," Smith said. "(Welch) played well. I think he'll probably start for us tomorrow, either at the point or the shooting guard. He'll be the guy who we would insert in our starting lineup at this point, based on what he did over the weekend."

The Gophers will play the Virginia Tech Hokies on Wednesday night.

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