Nate Mason will start again when Minnesota faces Rutgers on Saturday (11:00 a.m. Big Ten Network) and for the foreseeable future, coach Richard Pitino told the media on Friday.
"He needs to be on the court," he said. "He made some really talented plays in [Tuesday's loss to Iowa]. Certainly, we'll roll with him there."
The freshman stepped in for senior point guard DeAndre Mathieu on Tuesday, when Pitino shook up the starting lineup, also giving the nod to Charles Buggs and Elliott Eliason over Carlos Morris and Mo Walker.
On Friday, Pitino said he planned to revert back to his original starting five, with one exception: Mathieu -- who has started since the beginning of last season -- will continue to ride the pine and Mason, who finished with 17 points, four assists, zero turnovers and three steals vs. Iowa, will get his chance.
In the last five games, Mathieu has struggled, averaging 7.6 points and watching his lofty non-conference assist-to-turnover ratio invert as 20 turnovers have piled up to just 13 assists. Mason, meanwhile, has just one fewer assist (12) and 17 fewer turnovers (3) while averaging 9.2 points and totaling the same number of steals (7) in 5.4 fewer minutes a game.
"I don't really care, coming off the bench and starting," Mason said. "I just want to play and help us win, that's all I worry about."
Pitino said he felt starting Mason on Tuesday "lit a fire" under the freshman. Otherwise, the coach sounded mixed on the results of his shake up.
"I subbed in a minute and a half or two minutes into the game so I don't know if it really made a whole lot of difference," he said of the three switches. "I do know Nate needs to play more. Joey, I liked the minutes he played and Charles I thought was pretty decent as well. So we need to develop those guys."