DeAndre Mathieu on dealing with traps: “I’ve struggled”

Jace Frederick

Richard Pitino stared at the table, scanning the box score for a good five seconds after the Gophers 62-49 loss to Illinois on Wednesday night, likely searching for a solution.

The question: What does DeAndre Mathieu need to do to handle the traps teams are starting to throw at him off of ball screens?

The answer: To this point, is unknown.

"I don't know," Pitino said. "We were slipping them. He was passive versus it. I think he was getting frustrated with it, certainly. We kept slipping it and telling him to attack, and they did a good job on him."

Illinois' traps bothered Mathieu all night. He finished with just three points, three assists and  three turnovers. The Gophers fell to 0-6 in Big Ten play when their point guard doesn't hit the 10-point mark.

It was a similar attack to what Nebraska threw at Mathieu in an 82-78 Gophers loss on Jan. 26. Mathieu had a season-high nine turnovers in Lincoln, Neb.

"It was pretty similar," Pitino said. "We thought we had it corrected."

Mathieu recognized the problem in the postgame, and he knows he needs to figure out how to solve it.

"I stunk it up," Mathieu said. "I just made dumb plays — throwing the ball all over the place.”

“Every game that I’ve been trapped on ball-screens I’ve struggled. I’ve got to get back in the gym and work on that.”

He has to correct it if he is to lead the Gophers to success down the stretch, because he is likely Minnesota's key to a potential run to the NCAA Tournament.

And as Pitino pointed out, teams are going to continue to trap Mathieu — because right now, it's working.