Gophers play fast, make mistakes, show intensity

Jace Frederick

Gophers head coach Richard Pitino emphasized an up-and-down tempo since the day he was hired back in April.

Minnesota showed a glimpse of that pace Friday night in an inter-squad scrimmage as the maroon defeated the gold 61-53.

The Gophers pressed after nearly-every made basket and looked to take quality shots early in offensive sets.

“We’re definitely in great shape,” junior guard Andre Hollins said. “We’re run-and-gun all night, pressing all night and we’re really excited.”

The Gophers forced a combined 35 turnovers between the two teams.

It was a style Gophers fans had to adjust their eyes to after witnessing the slow-paced, hold-the-ball offense Minnesota often executed during the last six years under ex-head coach Tubby Smith.

“Coach [Pitino] wanted us to establish our brand of basketball, show the fans how we’re going to play,” junior guard Deandre Mathieu said. “Let them see for themselves how Gophers basketball is going to be played they year. It’s probably a little bit different than last year.” 

 But of course, it was the Gophers that the Gophers were turning over. The teams combined for just 20 assists to go along with the 35 giveaways.

“I wrote on the board about having a 2-1 assist-to-turnover ratio,” Pitino said. “That is not 2-1.”

The Gophers may have found a floor general capable of running their up-tempo offense.  Mathieu, a transfer from Central Arizona College, finished with 26 points on 8-11 shooting for the gold squad. He drove to the bucket at will, looking flawless in the transition game.

“I’m kind of shooting myself in the head with that one, because I was guarding him,” Hollins said. “We’re excited to [Mathieu] as a part of the team.”

Other standouts from Friday included Austin Hollins and Oto Osenieks. Hollins finished the game with 21 points on 8-10 shooting, including 4-6 from the three point line. Osenieks added 16 points on 7-11 shooting.

“I was very impressed with [Osenieks],” Pitino said. “[He had] a very efficient night offensively and I thought he did a good job defensively.”

Senior guard Malik Smith, who came with Pitino from Florida International, had a rough night. Smith, a sharpshooter by trade, finished the night 1-10 from beyond the arc with eight turnovers.

But Pitino’s confidence in Smith following the scrimmage didn’t waver.

“Malik Smith will do that to you. Only [I] can accept that,” Pitino said. “But I have unbelievable faith in him when it comes time to hit the big shot.”

Overall, Pitino his team picked up the intensity in its second scrimmage of the fall.

“They want to play with the best,” Pitino said. “I think they took strides with that today.”