MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- About an hour before Saturday's game against
UNLV, Vincent Grier heard the words from his doctor.
She told the Gophers' star swingman that if he felt confident
enough in his injured left hand, he could play against the Runnin'
"Leaving it up to Vince to play or not is like leaving it up to
my 2-year-old whether he can have candy or not," Minnesota coach
Dan Monson said after Grier scored 19 points to lead the Gophers
over UNLV 72-67.
Playing with a brace on his shooting hand, Grier showed no signs
of rust in his first game since breaking a bone in his ring finger
in Minnesota's season opener against North Dakota State on Nov. 18.
The All-American candidate had been expected to miss four to six
weeks, and he had barely been cleared by Thursday to resume
non-contact drills in practice.
On Friday, coach Monson said Grier was doubtful to play against
the Runnin' Rebels (2-5). But Monson said he went through a full
practice and was evaluated again in the morning before the game.
Grier took the floor for warmups and received a loud ovation
when introduced in the starting lineup -- and an even louder one
when he came out of the game for good late in the second half.
"It was fun to be back out there with the guys," Grier said,
adding that he didn't play cautiously to protect his hand.
"Just go out there and play," he said.
Grier was an All-Big Ten selection last year, scoring 17.9
points per game.
"It's really nice to know that Vince is back in your corner,"
Gophers center Spencer Tollackson said.
Minnesota led 43-33 early in the second half, but UNLV pulled
back into the game by outscoring the Gophers 15-4. Michael Umeh
converted a three-point play and Dustin Villepigue hit a layup to
give the Rebels a 48-47 lead with 11:09 to play, but Minnesota
answered with a 9-2 run.
UNLV pulled to 56-53 on Jo'Van Adams' three with 7:05 remaining,
but Boone -- who had a dismal shooting performance (3-for-10) --
answered with a 3 of his own. The Rebels didn't come closer than
four points the rest of the way.
"They were more the aggressor," Rebels coach Lon Kruger said.
"We've got to get a little meaner. We don't have that tenacity you
need to have, especially on the road."
Umeh led the Rebels with 19 points. Terry Curtis had 12, Louis
Amundson added 11 and Villepigue 10.
The Rebels led Minnesota by as many as 10 in the first half,
thanks to some timely 3-point shooting. Umeh's three at the 9:53
mark gave UNLV a 27-17 lead, but Minnesota closed the half with a
20-4 run sparked by Coleman's long-range shooting, Tollackson's
post moves, and Grier's quickness from all over the court.
Kruger said he had been expecting Grier to play all week.
"He's an outstanding player," the coach said. "He had a good
game. He had a very big impact."
Grier wowed the crowd early. He eluded a couple of defenders in
the lane with an impressive spin move and layup at the 6:50 mark of
the first half. Then, he took Terry off the dribble from the top of
the key, drove for a layup, drew a flagrant foul and sank both free
throws to give Minnesota a 37-31 lead at halftime.
"Same old Vince," Coleman said. "Hard on defense, fast to the