"We’ve always said Dupree McBrayer was probably our most improved player,” Richard Pitino said after the game. “He showed that, made some very very impressive finishes in the second half.
“I always thought we recruited a guy that would be good later. I think from a body standpoint, he’s put in the work, he’s playing with great confidence. Confidence is a beautiful thing and he’s shown that today."
McBrayer is now one of three Gopher players averaging between 12 and 13 a game (along with Nate Mason and Amir Coffey).
In 30 minutes a game he’s also shooting 48.5 percent from the field, 40 percent from the arc taking three treys a contest, and his free throw struggles at the start of the year are vanishing as he’s up over 70 percent.
Dupree is also the second option at point guard and things are going well there with only 16 turnovers in 12 games. He’s giving the team 3.5 assists per game as well.
“We allowed dribble penetration to some of their top players,” Long Island Coach Jack Perri said. “McBrayer really hurt us by breaking us down off the dribble.”
Nate Mason is hitting a strong grove at the right time as well. He scored 17 points making half of his dozen shots including four three-pointers. Mason also had seven assists against two turnovers in 39 minutes of play.
As a sophomore Mason made 30 percent of his three-pointers and 39 percent of his shots overall. Those numbers are up to 45.3 percent at the arc and 41 percent overall. Mason, Dupree, and Akeem Springs are giving Minnesota three-point options they were worried they wouldn’t have.
Playing off one another has been great for McBrayer and Mason.
"It keeps the defense on their toes,” said Mason of the pair. “Both of us can create for others, it would be hard to stop two people that can create for other people like us. It definitely takes the pressure off me that I know somebody can handle the ball, bring the ball back up court."
"It’s important that Nate and Dupree score,” Pitino explained. “Because It hink Amir is averaging 12, or 13 a game. But I think Amir’s naturally a great passer. Now I do think he’s a very good slasher getting to the rim you know, and scoring the ball. But its very very important that Dupree and Nate, Akeem as well, give us that scoring punch."
Another guy that had a strong outing was freshman power forward Eric Curry. LIU-Brooklyn is not a big team inside so Pitino was allowed to use Eric in extended minutes playing alongside Jordan Murphy.
Curry had hit a bit of a rough patch but 11 points and eight rebounds in 25 minutes will help him greatly going into final December games against Arkansas State and Michigan State.
"I’m excited about him, I’ve always been excited about him,” Pitino said. “He really rebounds the ball well. You know, gotta get him a little more confident with a low-post standpoint. But he can shoot the ball.
“(Eric) making that three was not a surprise. He hit a mid range shot too that was really nice. He’s got really good hands, good instincts catching the ball going right to the rim. So I think, for a true freshman, I think he’s pretty impressive."
Murphy had 13 points and five rebounds for the game, Reggie Lynch was in foul trouble but still managed three blocks in twelve minutes, and Springs had a rough night with two airballs but still continued to work earning him self a pair of threes later.
Springs also passed the ball really well totaling five assists and Akeem continues to be a catalyst when it comes to defensive effort.
The Gophers now have nine days to take finals and get ready for Arkansas State. The Red Wolves come to town on December 23rd and this is a team that we are hearing a lot about lately.
The Red Wolves were actually expected to be the easiest non conference game of the season when looking at preseason projections. They were picked 10th out of 12 in the Sun Belt coming into November.
Right now Arkansas State is 8-2 with wins over Georgetown by six points, they’ve beaten Cleveland State, Lehigh, Army, and others. The losses are by ten in Fargo to North Dakota State and by 23 at TCU.
Preseason All Sun Belt player Devin Carter has been one of the best three point weapons in the nation shooting between eight and nine treys a night and making 46.4 percent. His 17.4 points per game come mostly from behind the arc and point guard Donte Morris has been outstanding in creating for Carter.