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It was a thriller as the youthful Gophers move to 3-0 at home

The Gophers beat an experienced Nebraska-Omaha team and the team chemistry for the Gophers is growing

The Gophers beat an experienced Nebraska-Omaha team tonight... {Insert} (mutterings of how Nebraska-Omaha is a gimme or "guarantee win")

Does Nebraska-Omaha come in with name recognition?  No.

Do they come from a conference that has upset teams during March Madness?  Yes.

How many seniors do they have? 6.

Do they have players that grew up in Minnesota that didn't receive scholarship offers from Minnesota?  Yes.

Guarantee win?  No.

Let's start here.  Any time players or coaches come back to their home state or play against their former team there is so much added motivation.  If you are a gambling savant, then you know that you must account for that added motivation when you disect the matchups.  Nebraska-Omaha has 3 players from Minnesota.  One of them, Jake White, scored 23 points on 9 of 15 shots from the field tonight.  His heart was in this game tonight.  Any time you have a sharpshooter, like White, coming in with an axe to grind you know that it is going to be a battle.  Unfortunately for White, he fouled out with less than a minute to play only to watch his team miss on the many chances Minnesota gave Nebraska-Omaha to get back into the game.  

The missed free throws down the stretch will be cleaned up.  I asked Coach Pitino if Nate Mason was rattled down the stretch.

"I don't think he was rattled.  He's only a Sophomore.  He had 8 assists and two turnovers on the game," said Coach Pitino.

Nate Mason seems to mean something to Coach Pitino.  Mason is so smart and he is still processing his new teammates' abilities and where they will be on the floor in certain situations.  In my opinion, he missed some free throws at the end that just rimmed out.  Coach Pitino seemed to come to his defense quickly after I had asked him if Nate was rattled after the near meltdown with just seconds to play.  Pitino values/trusts his point guard and Nate is starting to get the team in order right before the tougher contests.

Other quick notes:

I worry about the number of offensive boards that Omaha was able to grab in this game.  Pitino would repeatedly yell "BLOCK OUT" to his team, so you can bet that this is something that will be addressed.

Joey King:  Does it even need to be said?  He is unconscious from 3.  I do believe he could step up on his defense awareness, particularly in help defense around the low post.  What a game he played though.

Ahmad Gilbert Jr.:  I am starting the Ahmad Gilbert fan club.  We may be making t-shirts.  Stay tuned.  6-6" 210lbs Freshmen that can shoot and looks to have some ballhandling ability.

Konate:  He is turning over both shoulders and making baby hook shots.  He told me today that he has been working on his free throws and his hook shots in practice.  He was outstanding today.  He just needs some softer hands.  He hasn't been able to secure some tough boards, but I expect him to make a jump there as well.

Murphy:  Good game.  Converted an "and-one" 3-point play with 3:31 left in the second half and the crowd erupted.  It was very much a rim shaker and a crowd pleaser.  Just a few plays before around 4:03 he had another vicious slam.

Morris:  I think he is maturing.  He picked his moments to shoot exteremely well tonight.  He also sparked a little run that kicked off the second half in the right direction.

Buggs:  Didn't look for his offense much tonight.  He continues to find confidence in his jumper though.  He is a special talent and someone Jordan Murphy can admire a bit.  Buggs' perimeter defense has been something to marvel at for his size.

Gaston "Gas" Diedhou:  He is playing his role well.  He was aggressive on the boards tonight and he doesn't try to do too much.  He is a great team player and seems like a very jolly guy in my first impressions of speaking with him.

McBrayer/Dorsey: Off nights.  Both show a strong ability to play perimeter defense, however, so they are useful players even when they aren't finding their touch.  Dorsey is playing with a runner shot from about 10-12 feet which looks promising.

Gold stars:

1.  Bakary Konate

2.  Joey King

3.  Jordan Murphy

Murphy, King, Konate combined for 14-17 at the foul line.

Coach Pitino is progressing.  Like Nate Mason, he is just starting to figure out what exactly the team has and how they fit together.  His patience was impressive tonight.  Even as the Gophers missed free throw after free throw down the stretch Pitino kept his cool and made the proper lineup adjustments to combat Omaha's pressing offense.  With .7 seconds remaining and the score 92-89, Coach Pitino instructed Nate Mason to foul as Nebraska-Omaha was in the bonus.  The Omaha guard wasn't ready as Mason fouled sending Omaha to the foul line for 2 free throws while needing 3.

I'd say most coaches do not foul in that situation, and I very strongly believe that to be a mistake, especially if you have a trustworthy point guard like Nate.  It was a heads up call by the coach, which Mason carried out beautifully.  The game ended 93-90.  The fans at The Barn seemed to appreciate the up-tempo battle greatly.

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