Richard Pitino tossed out a surprise starting lineup in Minnesota's exhibition against Minnesota-Duluth on Thursday night, with Josh Martin and Bakary Konate beginning the game instead of Joey King and Elliott Eliason.
The move yielded poor returns with the Gophers trailing in the game's opening minutes. But once King and Eliason were subbed in, the rout was on. King has been solid, hitting an outside shot, scoring inside and providing effort on the boards and defensively. Eliason has been his normal self, blocking a shot and grabbing eight rebounds.
But the story of the first half was Daquein McNeil and Carlos Morris' emergence. McNeil, who Pitino said is the most-improved player from last season, hit a pair of three's and has been aggressive getting to the rim. He has 10 points. Morris has looked great scoring on the perimeter but has had trouble finishing at the rim through contact. The junior college transfer also has 10 points.
Offensively, DeAndre Mathieu and Andre Hollins have looked like their normal selves, combining for 13 points. But their consistent ball pressure on the defensive end was refreshing. In one sequence, the senior duo trapped a Duluth guard and ripped the ball away from him to spur a breakaway Hollins layup.
While they started off slow, Martin and Konate also showed promise defensively as the half progressed.