The Gophers are showing few signs that they are an inexperienced and young team thus far. With catalysts like Joey King, Buggs, Mason and Pitino leading the way the Gophers appear ready for Temple. That matchup will appear on ESPN, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. UL Monroe, after losing the first half convincingly, gave the Gophers some scares in the second half. UL Monroe C/PF Majok Deng scored 16 on 6 of 12 shooting, but as soon as Charles Buggs was assigned to him in the second half he seemed to lose that confidence he'd gained earlier in the game. Buggs may be the true stopper on the perimeter this season, rather than just the default stopper.
This was a quality win. Do not dismiss UL Monroe. They came in with experience playing together (returning 4 starters) and they have amassed quite a few wins while playing together. These are signs that Pitino is figuring it out as a coach. Beating an experienced team that was able to win last year is good. Beating that same team while playing mostly underclassmen against them is even better. Pitino is figuring out what he has got with this team. He believes in this team and he is not just watching the clock until next season rolls around.
Moments of frustration to expect:
-- They will miss wide-open in rhythm 3s
-- Kevin Dorsey costly turnovers
-- They will not score the ball much in the post
-- Joey King may get a little bruised up and shy away from some contact.
All that being said, really only one of those things happened today: missing wide-open in rhythm 3s. Can this be overcome when teams start to key more on Joey King and there scouting reports say that it is OK to sag off of guys like Mason, McBrayer and Dorsey at times? I'm not sure. Will the positivity between teammates still be as apparent when they can't buy a bucket? I'm not sure. It's early, and for now enjoying a couple wins might be the best thing this team can do.
Dorsey made a big bucket today at the 4:48 mark in the second half. He also seemed a little more cautious today about turnovers.
Charles Buggs. He appears to have added some skills over the summer. We've known what kind of athlete he is for sometime, so these ridiculous shot blocks he's had are almost to be expected. Some of the dribble drives he has had tells me that maybe he is an adequate small forward. His shot selection may need to improve as these 3s continue to go up, but he's been very reliable. Strong perimeter defense as we saw him guarding Deng closely there in the second half.
Joey King has responded well to criticism on his defense and rebounding, so far. Pitino needs him to be a shooter first, but if he can stay healthy while also grabbing some of the toughly fought for rebounds he did today, then we will just have to consider that an added bonus.
Three stars today:
1. Joey King
2. Charles Buggs
Let the good times roll. This team has tasted winning early, which is a suprise to some. That can really help a young team get going. Temple is next and that will likely be another leg up in competition. As the Gophers gain more and more experience playing together you may see Pitino try out a few new tricks. This team can earn his trust and when that happens more of us may trust that Pitino is the man for the job.