Read my full game story on Minnesota's 108-82 win over UNC Wilmington here.
Three quick observations from (yay) the last non-conference game on the slate:
This team knows how to share the ball and score. Best ballhandling game of the year so far. Only eight turnovers -- including just two in the first half -- to 25 assists. Minnesota scored 108 points on its first Division I opponent this year without even running any set plays. The Gophers scored on the run, in the paint, behind the arc, you name it -- collecting 76 possessions, the tenth time this year Minnesota has recorded at least 71. An aggressive Carlos Morris (24 points) and Nate Mason (18 points) each netted new career scoring highs. DeAndre Mathieu -- really the catalyst of this whole thing -- posted a new career high in assists (11), good for his second double-double of the year. And all this with UNC-W (a lesser opponent, but not as much of a pushover as many this year, and one with some size) knowing Minnesota inside and out (head coach Kevin Keatts worked with coach Richard Pitino at Louisville and assistant Casey Stanley worked under him at FIU). Not bad.
Charles Buggs is improving a lot (but don't get carried away). The redshirt sophomore hit some bigtime shots late in the first half when the Gophers were in great need of a spark, and he ultimately tied the career-high he set in the infamous Iowa game last year when he became a fan favorite. His offense, and passing has gotten a lot better, as evidenced today with a couple of really nice dishes near the basket while on the move, but then a few plays later, we have Pitino screaming Buggs' name as loudly as he can on the other end with the reserve leaving his man open with a lackadaisical defensive effort. He still has a long ways to go, but his ability to step in and make some shots is big with the Gophers' lack of depth behind Joey King and Morris.
Good job with adjustments the last two games. Last time out, Minnesota found the score tied vs. Furman with just over three minutes to go. Today, the Gophers were down nine to UNC Wilmington more than 12 minutes into the game. Both times, Minnesota's defense perked up and the Gophers' offense took control. That's a harbinger of good things come the conference slate. In fact, most things in today's win were a harbinger of good things to come except for the rebounding which is still awful and a serious problem. "I thought that was one of our best adjustment games," Pitino said. "We switched up our game defensively and it paid off."
** Andre Hollins said his turf toe was still bothering him but it shouldn't get in the way of any practices going forward.
** Mathieu came out of the game with an apparent hand issue in the second half. Pitino noted that he was fine afterward, joking that his point guard simply likes attention.
"He said he can't feel his hand, like what is that?" the coach said. "He'll be fine."
Mathieu said in the locker room that he just hit his funny bone and his fingers went numb for a second. Told his coaches comments, he retorted:
"Nah man I don't need attention. He want all the attention. Y'all seen him wiping floors and all that nonsense."
**Pitino caught up with Keatts before the game. The opposing head coach told him he likes the Seahawks team he has "except we can shoot."
"They hit ten threes," Pitino scoffed afterward. "So I don't know if he was playing mind games with me or what.