USA Today

Minnesota in The Dance: Last Words

Minnesota and Middle Tennessee tip off in two hours. Here are ten final thoughts from the Gopher players and Richard Pitino.

On Minnesota being overlooked….

“We're really not paying no attention to it.  We know Middle Tennessee is a great team.  We got to be prepared to play” – Nate Mason

On Minnesota’s turnaround after losing five straight….

“I think we had to look back mentality-wise.  We have to get tougher and better and get back in practice and work even harder than we were to get back to what we were doing during the regular season.  During that five game skid, between then and now, I think the locker room is a lot more optimistic.  Guys have a lot of energy, really happy, too. I mean, I think we're -- we have a good confidence level right now and trying to keep that going.” – Jordan Murphy

On Middle Tennessee….

“They got great players.  They play a weird defense.  We got to be prepared to attack it on our terms. They're a great offensive rebounding team.  We're a great defensive rebounding team.  We got to come out and force our will and impose toughness right from the get-go.” – Nate Mason

On Middle Tennessee’s bigs

“I’ve played against all types of big men in the Big Ten and throughout the season. Maybe someone similar would be like Mo Wagner from Michigan—someone who can shoot outside—or Thomas Bryant on the other side of the mark. We’ve had success against those types of big men. We’ve had losses against them. We got to recognize what we did well when we won and recognize what we didn’t do well when we lost and use that to our advantage.” – Reggie Lynch

On his return to Milwaukee

“I love UWM. I did an interview before I left and it was kind of home for me, so I love it. It was kind of sad how we left. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but I still love UWM because it was an opportunity and it was a big step for me in my career.

“It was fun. Like I said, a bunch of my friends, a bunch of my family because I’m from Waukegon, Illinois, which is a 45minute drive, a bunch of them hit me up. Even Jabari [Parker] hit me up. Those are all guys I’m in touch with and all guys that I’m friends with, so it was kind of cool to come and I feel like I’m home really.” – Akeem Springs

On Kermit Davis

“I think Kermit is a terrific coach.  I kind of always, whenever people talk about coaches that people may not talk about, he's the first one on my list every single time.  So I got a bunch of respect for him and their team.” – Richard Pitino

On Recruiting Minnesota

“When it comes to us and recruiting the state, we've gotten the guys for the most part that we've wanted.  We haven't gotten everybody, but you're not always going to need everybody.  You only get a certain number of scholarships.  The guys that we've targeted since we've been here, we've been pretty successful. 

“Jarvis Johnson was a guy who hasn't played for us, but he was a very good recruit for us.  Amir Coffey was another guy that we really locked in on and wanted.

“We've done a good job recruiting the state, but when you're successful -- there's two things, success and commitment are what are going to help you with instate recruits.  Now that we're committing to the facilities part of it, that's going to really help.  And then obviously our team being successful, Amir being successful, Reggie Lynch being successful.  Guys that are from the state that are playing well, that also really helps in recruiting.” – Richard Pitino

On rebounding from losing 5 straight

“Losing five games in a row after last year, that was nothing.  I could handle that one. We went two months without a win last year. I think last year definitely equipped us for this year, because we had lost a bunch of close games last year.  And I think with Nate Mason, Dupree, McBrayer, Jordan Murphy, they were on the court for a lot of those games last year.  So as hard as last year was, it helped us.  And when it came down to that losing streak, there was really only one game where I thought we didn't play well and that was at Michigan State.  The rest of them we had opportunities to win.

“So, I think last year helped everybody stay pretty composed and poised and believing that we could go on a run.  You know, fortunately we went on a big run. I'm not sure I anticipated an 8-game winning streak.  I did think we would break through.  The guys were very, very mature about it and level-headed about it.” – Richard Pitino

On Akeem Springs

“He got hurt, it was kind of weird because he got hurt and then a media timeout happened right away.  I didn't really notice it because we went right into the timeout.

“Then, all of a sudden, I say where is Akeem?  He's back with Ben Felz, our trainer.  He comes back out and is on crutches.  He knows he's done for the rest of the season.  And I said, "Are you all right?"  He looked at me and said, "I'm fine Coach, let's go win this game."  Then after the game, we won, beat Michigan State, he was, "Let's go get a ring, don't worry about me."

“The way that he handled that, I think is one of the reasons why everybody has been kind of able to move.” – Richard Pitino

On what’s led to 9 wins in 11 games

“I would hope it's our defense.  I think we got a pretty good defense, pretty solid defense at times, you know, so, we talk a lot about defense and rebounding.  In our league if you don't do that, you got no shot.  You know, so if we do that, we're able to get out on the break, I think we can be effective.  So, it all stems around our defense.” – Richard Pitino

Gopher Illustrated Top Stories