Malik Smith’s first start at Minnesota won’t always be remembered fondly, but it likely will never be forgotten.
In that game, the Gophers lost 82-78 to Nebraska. But the 6-foot-2 senior scored a career-high 29 points and matched the record for most 3-pointers by an opponent against NU with eight.
“He relishes this type of opportunity,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “That’s a guy who had no scholarship offers out of juco besides us.
“Now, he’s putting 29 up on the road in the Big Ten. That says a lot about his ability to step up.”
That lone offer out of junior college was when Pitino was coaching at Florida International, not Minnesota. Smith went to FIU out of South Plains (Texas) Community College and was a third-team All-Sun Belt pick after averaging 14.1 points a game.
When Pitino left for Minnesota, Smith was granted immediate transfer eligibility to join the Gophers this season.
He had played in 19 of UM’s first 20 games, averaging 9.8 points. But he didn’t start until Sunday. The chance came with senior guard and leading scorer Andre Hollins sidelined by a sprained ankle.
“Me and Andre had a talk,” Smith said after the game. “He told me to be aggressive and don’t hold anything back because he knows what I’m capable of.”
Smith had a 29-point game at Florida International. His previous high this season was 19 against the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
One Gopher who didn’t fare as well Sunday was junior Elliott Eliason.
The 6-11 center from Chadron, Neb., drew boos from the Husker student section each time he touched the ball. Eliason had five points, four rebounds and two blocks in 21 minutes.
“I personally didn’t have much focus today,” Eliason said. “I just didn’t finish anything around the rim.”
Big Ten honors
Player of the week: Michigan guard Nik Stauskas. The 6-foot-6 sophomore from Missisauga, Ontario, averaged 22.5 points, 4.5 assists and 3.5 rebounds in wins over Iowa and Michigan State.
Rookie of the week: Michigan guard Derrick Walton. The 6-1 freshman from Detroit had a career-high 19 points, six rebounds and five assists in a win at Michigan State.
Quote of the week
Purdue had 11 players record double-digit minutes in a loss to Wisconsin, but it wasn’t because coach Matt Painter was trying to keep guys healthy and happy. His thought:
“I’d like to see our guys play better so I know who the hell to play.”
Stat of the week
At Nebraska’s bone-marrow donation awareness drive ahead of Sunday’s game, 107 people were swabbed for entry into the registry. With only those between ages 18-44 able to be swabbed on site, happy officials from NU and the registry called the response “amazing.”