Mathieu tops his former coach en route to NYC

DeAndre Mathieu used to play for Southern Miss head coach Donnie Tyndall.

Jace Frederick

It was clear last night meant a little more to DeAndre Mathieu.

Mathieu wanted Minnesota to win to extend its seniors’ careers at least one more game and earn a spot at Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.

Still, for the junior point guard, the 81-73 win provided a little taste of redemption, topping his former head coach at Morehead State — current Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall.

“It feels good to just beat him,” Mathieu said. “I played for him and he didn’t give me a second chance, [so] to come out here and beat him, it really feels good.”

Mathieu said he was excited when he found out he’d have a chance to play his former coach, who wouldn’t grant him a scholarship because of questions regarding his commitment and his playing abilities.

Gophers head coach Richard Pitino was concerned that excitement could lead to Mathieu trying to do too much on the court, thus hurting his team.

“I told him, ‘Don’t make this about yourself. Let’s make it about the team,’” Pitino said.

That’s exactly what Mathieu did. He took just three shots, hitting each one, en route to a seven-point performance — maintaining complete control, while guiding Minnesota to a stellar offensive performance.

“He’s mature,” Pitino said. “I didn’t think it was an issue at all during the game. I thought he handled it really, really well.”

The Gophers were led by senior Austin Hollins, who poured in a career-high 32 points, for which Mathieu was grateful.

“I thank my teammates, especially Austin, for having such a big night and helping me get over that obstacle,” Mathieu said.

He said sitting in Tyndall’s office two years ago, hearing that he wouldn’t be granted a scholarship, seemed like forever ago. He’s accomplished so much since then.

“I don’t even think about it anymore,” he said. “My mom called me [Tuesday] and was like, ‘Remember that time he called you into the office?’ I was just like, ‘Mom, it’s not even about him anymore. It’s about winning this game and going to New York.'”

Mathieu’s maturity, along with his ability, have both developed immensely as he’s become one of the premier point guards in the Big Ten. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t good enough to get a scholarship in the Ohio Valley Conference.

“The credit goes to DeAndre, the blame doesn’t go to Donnie Tyndall,” Pitino said. “He probably wasn’t a good enough player at the time. Coach Tyndall isn’t a dummy, he’s a very good coach. So the credit goes to DeAndre for what he did in junior college, in the offseason here, continuing to get better.”

Tyndall and Mathieu had a brief exchange after the game. Mathieu said his former coach wished him good luck with the rest of the season.

“Not much [else] to be said, though,” he said.

Both have since moved on. Tyndall to Southern Miss. Mathieu to Minnesota — and now off to New York.

“We’ve got a championship to win,” Mathieu said.