Young big men see valuable playing time in blowout win

Jack Satzinger

After Minnesota had beaten Franklin Pierce 109-57 Thursday night at Williams Arena, Richard Pitino wasn't quite sure what to say. There wasn't much the second year head coach could take away from beating the pants off a Division II oponent. 

But after the Gophers jumped out to a 24-point halftime lead, Pitino gave young big men Charles Buggs, Josh Martin and Bakary Konate ample playing time that could contribute to their development. 

"A game like tonight is great for Bakary, it's great for Buggs, it's great for Josh," Pitino said. "It's important for those guys, because we're going to need them." 

Konate, a freshman center, likely won't play many meaningful minutes this season with veterans Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason ahead of him. But Pitino wants him to be Minnesota's starting center next season after Walker and Eliason have run out of eligibility. The Mali native scored six points in 22 minutes played. 

"He's still very raw, but he's got the size," Pitino said. "It's going to take a while for him."

While there isn't a strong sense of urgency for Konate to develop right away, Pitino stressed the importance of Buggs and Martin becoming viable backup power forwards behind Joey King. Buggs finished with eight points and four rebounds, exciting the crowd along the way with an electrifying fast-break dunk in the first half. Martin, who Pitino said has looked nervous at times, pulled in five rebounds to go along with eight points. 

Guards Carlos Morris, Nate Mason and Andre Hollins led the Gophers in scoring with 16, 15 and 14 points, respectively. But in a game that was over midway through the first half, a big key for Minnesota was the extra playing time its reserve big men enjoyed. 

"The biggest question mark we have as a team is the backup power forward spot," Pitino said. "Everywhere else I'm really comfortable with all of our depth."