Richard Pitino’s voice was pretty hoarse after screaming at his players all night during the Gophers’ closer than expected 68-67 win against Drake.
Pitino chewed his players out at halftime more than he had all season, but he toned it down and went bigger picture with his postgame speech.
It had a lot to do with sticking together as a team and making sure they take ownership of playing well enough to make the NCAA tournament. Not to let observers tell the Gophers they’re good enough to make it before actually proving they are.
“Only 19 percent of college basketball teams go to the NCAA tournament,” Pitino said Monday about what he told his players. “It’s hard to do that. Really, really hard to do that. Just because people tell us we’re going to go, it does not mean why we’re going to go. It was a great wake-up call for us tonight.”
It’s mid-December and definitely too early to make realistic NCAA tourney projections. But the Gophers were a No. 6 seed in ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi’s last bracket Dec. 7. That was before the 16-point loss Saturday at Arkansas, which will likely drop Minnesota slightly down a spot or two. So imagine how much it would’ve hurt Pitino’s NCAA tournament resume to lose to Drake on Monday.
The Bulldogs looked a lot better than a 5-5 team, especially with their ability to shoot from three-point range (12 threes Monday). But the fact is that Drake’s RPI was 217. The Gophers had already dropped out of the top 50 RPI with their previous two losses to Nebraska and Arkansas. They really can't afford to lose any of the next five home games to non-NCAA tournament teams, starting Dec. 21 against Oral Roberts.
“It’s been six, seven months of everybody telling you what you’re going to be without actually being it,” Pitino added about his speech to the team. “I get it. I understand the way it works. It’s hard for younger people to hear those things. It’s not a knock on family, friends, fans. That’s just how it is.”
Pitino said senior center Bakary Konate was available to play Monday after missing Saturday’s loss at Arkansas after suffering a concussion earlier in the week. Konate’s role was filled briefly by senior forward Gaston Diedhiou, who had two points in four minutes.
Diedhiou had six points and three rebounds in 18 minutes against Arkansas, but Drake played mostly with a smaller lineup.
“I think he’s giving us some good stuff,” Pitino said. “He moves a little bit better than Bakary. He’s a little bit more fluid. What I saw I liked. But I don’t think we’ll be able to play like that and win a lot of games in the Big Ten. So I just got to get a little faith in our bench. That’s going to happen through practice.”
LYNCH REACHES 1,000
Senior center Reggie Lynch scored just seven points on 3-for-7 shooting Saturday, but it was enough to surpass 1,000 points for his career. He played his first two seasons at Illinois State. Lynch also had five blocks Monday, which tied him with former Gopher and NBA center Joel Przybilla (1998-00) for fifth on the program’s all-time blocks list with 165. Lynch leads the nation with 4.3 blocks per game and 51 blocks this season.
No player since former Kansas State All-American Michael Beasley 10 years ago had 12 double-doubles to start the season before Murphy did it Monday with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Murphy has already tied the total number of double-doubles he had all last season.
The school record for double-doubles in one season was set by Gopher great Mychal Thompson with 21 in 1975-76. The second most double-doubles in a season came most recently from Trevor Mbakwe with 19 in 2010-11.