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Published September 12, 2015
While Rodney Williams threw down dunk after dunk, Ray Gallegos was draining 3-pointer after 3-pointer.
Nebraska's junior guard never backed down against bigger, stronger Minnesota. He just didn't get enough help from his teammates.
Gallegos scored 30 points, but Williams had 23 to help the 23rd-ranked Golden Gophers overwhelm Nebraska 84-65 on Tuesday night.
Gallegos made 12 of 17 shots, including six 3s, to become the first Cornhusker to score 30 in a game since 2008. Aleks Maric had 32 against Missouri that season.
"I've been at the gym early trying to get my rhythm back," said Gallegos, who shot worse than 39 percent in seven of his last nine games. "It felt like I've been off the previous two or three games. I wasn't shooting it right."
That wasn't an issue Tuesday night. Gallegos scored 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting, hitting four 3-pointers, to keep Nebraska in the game in the first half. But Brandon Ubel played only 26 minutes before fouling out and leading scorer Dylan Talley had just six points on 2-for-7 shooting for Nebraska (11-11, 2-7 Big Ten).
"Ray was phenomenal," coach Tim Miles said. "Minnesota beat us in every facet of the game, and that's why no one was there to pick him up. That's mental readiness and competitiveness. It was disappointing that we weren't there."
The Huskers committed 13 turnovers and were outrebounded 36-19 to negate 54.5 percent shooting.
Williams was the aggressor from the outset for Minnesota. He scored just two points in the loss to Wisconsin last weekend continuing a troubling slump for the athletic power forward. He scored eight of the team's first nine points against overmatched Nebraska, throwing down two dunks in the process to get the Gophers rolling.
"When he dunked on the first possession, I thought to myself, 'Uh oh, here we go,'''Miles said. "Looks like the gut feeling was right. He was outstanding."
Andre Hollins scored 14 points and Austin Hollins had 13 points and five assists for the Gophers (16-5, 4-4), who snapped a four-game losing skid that caused them to plummet in the rankings.
Ubel finished with 13 points and Shavon Shields scored 10. But David Rivers was limited to 15 minutes by foul trouble and the Gophers had no answer for Williams.
After a brief rest, Williams didn't stop. He kept attacking the overwhelmed Cornhuskers, even adding a rare 3-pointer to the mix. It was an encouraging sign for the Gophers, who desperately need their high flyer to get back to the difference-maker he was during the nonconference portion of the schedule if they want to get back into the hunt.
"Our psyche was shaken pretty bad," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "I thought we really had just shot ourselves in the foot in every loss we've had. Tonight we did a better job."
After losing their first five Big Ten games, the Huskers had won two out of three. But they weren't ready for a hungry Gophers team that was out to prove that they weren't going to fade away again.
The Gophers started the season 15-1, with the only loss to Duke. Expectations started to swell as the victories piled up, and they climbed to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 before they hit the skids. Losses to Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin threatened to spoil things as the Gophers followed a familiar script under Smith.
Three years ago, the Gophers lost six of eight games in Big Ten play. Two years ago they went a stretch of 10 losses in 11 games and last season they dropped the final six games. During their latest swoon, Smith seemed to anger some players, Williams included, with his blunt assessment of their failings after losses.
It's when the Gophers are going toe-to-toe with bigger, more physical opponents that Williams tends to disappear. He combined for nine points in two losses to the Badgers and Northwestern last week, going 3 for 17 from the field and finding it difficult to get to the basket for easy dunks.
"We did some things today to try to get him some freedom to come out and move a bit more," Smith said. "He's been going up against some pretty big guys. Tonight he didn't have to do that. They didn't really muscle him. ... He's capable of doing that all the time. That's my expectations of Rodney."