Read my full game story on the Gophers' 80-65 win over New Orleans here
Just healthy, the Gophers have more injuries to deal with.
In the two practices leading up to Saturday's win over New Orleans, Center Elliott Eliason and guard Malik Smith each sprained their left ankles, keeping the latter from entering the game and limiting the former to just four minutes.
Mo Walker started in Eliason's place for the first time this year, and responded, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds, although he sat for most of the second half with four fouls.
Coach Richard Pitino said afterward that he "hopes" Eliason will be available to play on Tuesday in the Gophers' game against South Dakota State, but is more reserved about Smith's sprain.
After hurt it on Friday (Eliason tweaked his on Thursday), Smith actually re-entered practice and continued to play on it, but when he arrived at Williams Arena today, he could barely walk. Still, Pitino wasn't sure he couldn't play, remembering a time last year when he was coaching Smith at Florida International and the guard injured his back at Stetson in warmups.
"I said 'What is wrong with you?' And he said 'I can’t walk,'" Pitino remembered. "So I subbed him in … he played like 35 minutes, he had like 32 points (he played 30 minutes and had 29 points in reality) and I said ‘You’re not Willis Reed (who famously played hurt for the New York Knicks in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals) – stop doing that.’ So I thought he was doing that a little bit but he really wasn’t – he was pretty banged up. His seems worse than Elliott’s, so I hope he comes back, just rest is the biggest thing."
Eliason, meanwhile, had told Pitino he thought he was "65-70 percent" before the game, but it was pretty clear once he entered that he was not functioning at a high level. The center played for four minutes in the first half -- getting a pair of blocks -- and left, hobbling.
"He just looked like he was really hurting," Pitino said. "I told him during a timeout – 'You alright man?' He said "Ahhh …" They want to play, they want to fight through the injury. I just made a decision we’ve got to get some rest for those guys."
Other notes from the 80-65 victory:
- Austin Hollins' one-handed alley oop slam had to be the highlight dunk of the season to this point, and it was also his third in two games (two passes came from DeAndre Mathieu, one from Maverick Ahanmisi). "I’m getting really good at the lob and Austin is making it easy – he’s going to catch it every time." Watch it for yourself here.
- Pitino pulled Andre Hollins out of the game after the first nine seconds, subbing him for Maverick Ahanmisi, after Hollins appeared to be caught off-guard when a pass came his way. "His problem was I called a play and he didn’t execute it and so I was upset," Pitino said. "But he came back and he was fine, he was pretty aggressive towards the end of the first half, he got going a little bit. We need him to do that. We need an aggressive Andre Hollins." Hollins said when he got to the sideline Pitino told him "he can’t have those lapses from a captain."
- Today marked only the third game in which the Gophers' turnovers (16) out-numbered their assists (15). Coming into the game, Minnesota had collected 127 assists to 94 turnovers. "I wrote on the board one of our first offensive goals was a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. Obviously we didn’t get that. I just thought we were just sloppy. We were going against a team, Florida State, who were averaging 12 steals a game, and we only had six turnovers. And then we came in today. I thought we took a couple risks that we didn’t need to take offensively."
- The Gophers stretched the lead as great as 24 points with Hollins' alley-oop with 14:46 to play, but watched New Orleans come within eight before again dispensing them with an 11-5 finishing run.
- Six Gophers scored in double digits today: Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Mo Walker, DeAndre Mathieu, Joey King and Oto Osenieks.