DeAndre Mathieu. Inner-city kid. Former walk-on. Undersized point guard.
Can't get enough of the Big Ten.
After every major floor general matchup, Mathieu can hardly contain his genuine exuberance, and Saturday was no exception, with the Tennessee native showing his excitement after besting Indiana point guard Yogi Ferrell.
"Just like the Aaron Craft battle, my family talks about it all the time," Mathieu said. "He's really good. He made some tough shots. I think he hit like seven threes against Michigan. He's really good, really quick. It's just the competitor in me -- I don't want to be out-played ever, so I went out and got out there."
It's one of the things everyone has come to love about Mathieu. The JUCO junior gets excited for matchups as if he's waiting for them all of his life. Maybe he has.
Saturday, Mathieu's brothers and cousins were in town to watch him go off for 16 points and record five assists to just one turnover. After the win, they were downstairs, eagerly waiting outside the locker room in Gophers gear.
"They actually came to this game to see me and Yogi Ferrell go at it," Mathieu said. "That's all they talked about -- we're coming to see you when you play Yogi Ferrell because Yogi Ferrell is really good and that's going to be a battle we want to see. And you can't disappoint your family, so I had to go get out there and get at him ... They're really excited. They said 'You locked him down second half,' that's what they're talking about, and I'm just really happy they're here, happy to get the win."
The Gophers' point guard has had some ups and downs in the Big Ten, but many of the ups have come in incredibly tough matchups. Against Penn State's Tim Frazier, Mathieu finished with 16 points and four rebounds. Against Ohio State and Aaron Craft, Mathieu had 13 points to go with five assists.
And Saturday, the guard had the winning shot, then followed it up with a huge defensive rebound on the other end, hitting both free throws when he was fouled.
"DeAndre makes an unbelievable move, that was a tough move, against a very good defender and then he comes in traffic and grabs a rebound," coach Richard, Pitino said. "It just shows the type of heart. He’s 5-9, 160 but he believes he’s 6-8, 230."
And he can't wait to play with the very, very best.
Asked whether he thinks Mathieu gets up for tougher opponents, Pitino said "Maybe so, yeah. He's a prideful kid. I think more than anything today, he knows we need him to be good for us to win, and he was almost flawless tonight. He really was. And I'm proud of him. He was a walk-on at Morehead State two years ago. Think about that. And now, he's probably one of our better players in the Big Ten, doing big things."