Gophers coach Richard Pitino was encouraged about his basketball team finishing 3-0 in Italy after improvements defensively and strong play from newcomers.
With returning starter Gabe Kalscheur out with an ankle injury, freshman Tre’ Williams led the Gophers in scoring Saturday with 22 points in a 98-66 victory over Como Select.
Williams, a 6-5 guard from Dallas, scored 41 points combined in the last two games, including 19 points in Thursday’s win over Tuscan Select in Florence.
On Saturday, Williams shot 8-for-16 from the field off the bench. Five Gophers were in double figures scoring, including Payton Willis with 15 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals.
Marcus Carr, Daniel Oturu and Alihan Demir also had 10 points each.
The Gophers, who shot 11-for-27 from three-point range, blew out the last two opponents by a combined 72 points after barely escaping Stella Azzurra Academy 84-79 on Tuesday in Rome.
“We played pretty good,” Pitino said. “Like I said, offensively we’re pretty good. We can shoot and we share the basketball well. Defensively, we made strides over the trip. We got better each game. The biggest thing is, hopefully, nobody got too hurt.”
Kalscheur, a sophomore guard, sat out Saturday’s game for precautionary reasons. Junior forward Michael Hurt injured his ankle in the game, but he finished with eight points and five rebounds in 22 minutes.
In Tuesday’s win, Minnesota came back from a 32-16 deficit in the first quarter. The Gophers recorded 15 steals and eight blocks in their final game.
Freshman Isaiah Ihnen, who had 19 points Thursday vs. Tuscan Select, finished with eight points, six rebounds and four assists as a starter.
“The good thing about it is they’re listening, they’re taking to coaching,” Pitino said. “You can come out here and maybe not take it seriously, because it’s really, really hot and everybody’s traveling around. But these guys were locked in and focused. I think we’ve got good chemistry. I think the biggest thing now is go home and get some rest. And let’s really ramp it up when we get back and classes start.”