Read my game story on the 83-68 win over Chaminade here.
Gophers coach Richard Pitino said he called former Butler and current Celtics coach Brad Stevens before the Maui Invitational to ask for his friend's advice on travel (Butler was in Maui last season).
Stevens' response, according to Pitino:
"Get in as early as possible and get out as quickly as possible and I would probably schedule a Division III team first game back."
Said Pitino: "Well, we don't have that choice. We're playing Florida State."
As the Gophers head back from beautiful Hawaii, fresh off a near upset by a Division II squad, the challenges don't stop. Wednesday provided both a kick-in-the-pants and a jolt of confidence after Minnesota, which played horrendously in long stretches, eventually woke up and executed very well down the stretch to take the victory.
But the Gophers have got to learn from this game if they want to stay competitive in the long season ahead. To be certain, there are unavoidable shortcomings on this team, one of them being the frontcourt size and depth, but the effort -- which was suspect through most of the first and the first half of the second -- is not reliant on great talent. That is the one thing Minnesota has no excuse for lacking.
And it lacked for long stretches on Wednesday. The Gophers looked tired at the outset and generally disinterested until the final 11 minutes or so. That Minnesota finished on a 28-7 run is notable -- and at that point their offense was finally clicking and the defensive press looked sharp -- but if the opponent had not been Chaminade, well, a comeback of that caliber wouldn't have been so easy.
The Gophers head back to Minneapolis tonight, and will rest tomorrow before getting back at it in preparation for the Seminoles on Tuesday.
Asked what the team needs to learn from Wednesday's game, Pitino said "Probably that anybody can beat us on any given night. That just showed us. If mentally-wise we don't bring it every game, we could lose."
Other notes from today's 83-68 win:
- DeAndre Mathieu was the catalyst on Wednesday. In the final 11:49 the point guard picked up what had been a slack performance, especially defensively, before that. During that stretch, Mathieu had eight points, four rebounds, three assists and a steal. "It was all him," Pitino said. "When he started to turn up the heat, everybody fed off of him."
- After collecting 35 turnovers in the first two games, the Gophers had just seven on Wednesday, a highlight from a performance that was otherwise pedestrian. Minnesota shot 38.2 percent from the field, tied the rebounding battle with 38 and allowed Chaminade to go 51.7 percent from the field in the first half. Minnesota also forced 20, tying a season-high for forced turnovers (Central Carolina also had 20 in that game).
- Andre Hollins hasn't quite looked himself in the past two games. The star guard has gone five-for-18 from the field in that span. Pitino waived off the lack of production and blamed foul trouble for his Wednesday performance. "I thought he had a good tournament," Pitino said. "He did a lot of things good defensively, showed great leadership so no, I don’t worry about that at all."
- Mo Walker looked much better in his second game back, particularly with Elliott Eliason struggling somewhat. The 6-10 center finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
- Malik Smith has led the Gophers' offensively through the Maui Invitational with a total of 47 points. Coming into Hawaii the senior guard was averaging 6.6 points a game.
- Austin Hollins had another good rebounding effort on Wednesday, with the Gophers playing a four-guard lineup for stretches. He finished with eight (and nine points) and accumulated a total of 17 rebounds in the tournament.