Postgame thoughts: Konate’s role growing, Mathieu moved to the bench

by Jack Satzinger

Taking a glance through the box score from Minnesota's 89-80 win against Rutgers on Saturday, Andre Hollins' 31 points stand out like a big beacon of hope for the Gophers who are still shooting for a spot in the NCAA Tournament after a 1-5 start to conference play. But Bakary Konate's 17 minutes on the floor Saturday might be equally as impactful as far as the future's concerned. The freshman from Mali hadn't played since 2014 and now, with senior Elliott Eliason slumping, Richard Pitino is giving Konate more minutes so that he's ready to play a big role next season.

"He's not playing great, certainly," Pitino said of Eliason, who tallied just four minutes Saturday. "We've got to develop Bakary. We've got to do it… It doesn't mean Elliott's not going to play anymore. Every guy is valuable." 

Konate still looks lost on the floor at times as he's adjusting to a different style of play from what he played in Spain after moving from Mali. Still, he's improved from the start of the season when he was fouling at an obscene rate. 

"Sometimes I don't control my movement enough," Konate said. "In high school and Spain I was very comfortable, but here it's more speed, more power, and I have to try to learn all this stuff right now."

The improvement from Konate is promising for Minnesota, which will need to replace senior Mo Walker at center next season.

Mathieu moved to the bench
After leading Minnesota to its NIT Championship last year, it looks like 5-foot-9-inch point guard DeAndre Mathieu will be coming off the bench for the foreseeable future. Freshman guard Nate Mason has started in Mathieu's place in the last two games.

"I just want to play basketball. Sitting on the bench is never fun, but if it's what's got to be done to help the team win games then I'm with it," Mathieu said.