"The most important thing is we got the win,” Richard Pitino told the media as he walked in. “I think there was a lot of good.
“I thought our post offense was really good, our passing out of the post was really good. Defensively they were playing five guards it was a little bit challenging. I thought I subbed too much in the first half. It kind of screwed it up a little bit, I probably shouldn’t have done that.”
Pitino is referring to playing four reserve early in the game which is something he hadn’t done yet this year. The early momentum was lost and the offense became stagnant.
Coach Pitino had been using his first seven guys for most of the first half and then inserting Michael Hurt or Ahmad Gilbert towards the end of the half. He changed that pattern last night.
That substitution pattern may have led to a lull in the game but team still pulled out a 24 point win against a team that competed well against top 25 ranked Iowa State just days earlier.
“I thought overall, (the) most important thing was we got the win,” Pitino said. “We have to shore up the free throw line (made 14 of 23), shore up the closeouts (on opposing shooters).
“As difficult as that game is to play because you’re playing the little guards, it’s good for us to work on our closeouts, work on our shell defense. We did a much better job in the second half."
For the second straight game Minnesota’s defense was much better in the second half than it was the first half. The Mountaineers made just 35.7 percent of their field goal attempts for the game and the Gophers dominated the glass 46-25.
The small line-up from Mount St. Mary’s presented some challenges but senior guard Nate Mason scored 13 points including a three and a pair of pull-up jumpers from 15 to 16 feet.
"Games like this will always be hard, it was a tough match-up, at one point they had all guards on the floor,” Mason said. “It was a time we had to regroup and just build the energy through ourselves."
Minnesota sophomore Jordan Murphy had his best game of the season finishing 8 of 9 shot attempts for 18 points and a dozen rebounds. Most of Murphy’s scores were on off ball activity plays scoring on put-backs, basket cuts, and open floor runs.
Jordan did miss five of his seven free throws which Pitino pointed out quickly.
“He was good,” Piitno said. “He would’ve been great if he’d made his free throws, but he rebounded the ball well. I think we’re obviously doing a really good job rebounding and a lot of that is our size. We’re obviously much much bigger. But you know Murph to go 8 for 9, 12 rebounds, and get to the line 7 times, he had a really good night."
"I think I was more looking forward to the game in general, I mean every time you step on the court, it is a chance to see how you can impact the game,” Murphy said in the locker room. “I guess my teammates found me more tonight then in the past two games."
Fellow sophomore Dupree McBrayer also had another strong evening. Dupree was perfect from the field making all of his attempts for 13 points. For the season McBrayer has made 16 of 23 field goal attempts so far and leads the team in scoring.
“He’s playing with great confidence,” Pitino said. “I always thought sophomore year he’d have a really good year, hopefully it continues. I do love the confidence he’s playing with.
“You can tell when (Dupree) shoots the ball he thinks it’s going in and he’s worked hard at it, he’s put in the time, and that’s where you get confidence from. You just put in the work and he’s done that. So he’s definitely playing with a lot of confidence. I’m happy for him."
Freshmen Amir Coffey and junior Reggie Lynch joined their three teammates in double figures with ten points each.
Mount St. Mary's Head Coach Jamion Christian was very complimentary of the Gopher team his Mountaineers lost to.
I can see what Richard Pitino is doing there,” Christian said. “He is building a strong Big Ten team with the physicality in the inside and it is the only time you get to line up against a team like that; it is always a great time.”
Next for the Gophers is St. John’s who is 2-0 thus far blowing out Bethune Cookman 100-43 and defeated Binghamton 77-61 on Monday. St. John’s is led by freshmen backcourt duo Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds. The two have combined for 71 of the 177 points the team has scored this year.