Joey King will start at power forward against Indiana

Jace Frederick

Gophers head coach Richard Pitino decided it was time to change it up.

He announced on Friday that sophomore forward Joey King will start in place of junior Oto Osenieks on Saturday when Minnesota welcomes Indiana to town.

It's a move some have been inquiring about the possibility of since early in the season, but Pitino had held strong on his position not to make a change to the starting five just for the sake of making a change. So why make the move now?

"I don't think Joey was doing anything to justify making a change in the starting lineup [earlier in the season] — I think he is now," Pitino said. "And I don't think it's as much Oto as it is Joey. I just think Joey is playing with unbelievable enthusiasm and effort in practice and during the games."

King put forth his best performance of the conference slate in the Gophers triple-overtime loss to the Boilermakers. He chipped in 14 points while pulling down a season-high nine rebounds in a career-high 47 minutes.

"I think that he's showing great enthusiasm, playing confidently offensively," Pitino said. "He's battling. Like I said in that Purdue game, he was probably the only guy who matched their physicality. [He] took their hits and was strong with the ball." 

Pitino had previously stated a move like this could come if the Gophers dropped two or three in a row. Minnesota's loss to Purdue was its third straight.

"I just think it's something that's needed, a little change," Pitino said "We've lost three in a row, why not switch something up?"

Pitino said the move certainly doesn't mean Osenieks will be buried on the bench. He made sure to note the need for Osenieks in the Gophers thin front court. 
 
"Oto just needs to keep his head up, keep playing hard and not take it as a personal shot or like a blow to his confidence," Gophers junior center Mo Walker said, "but just contribute as much as he can off the bench and hopefully he'll keep playing well."