As far as exhibition games go, this one was fairly interesting, I thought. Mostly, that's because we're really just seeing this team for the first time.
But I also thought it showcased a good mix of reasons to excite, as well as clear areas that need work.
A few thoughts:
- The energy in the first half was great. The Gophers got into their defensive press about five minutes in and looked absolutely smothering. They were trapping guys, harrassing the opponents into turnovers and making the offense look extremely uncomfortable.
- The flip side is that Minnesota could not keep that same intensity throughout. Pitino and the players agreed that guys weren't really tired -- with the exception of Deandre Mathieu, who Pitino said he did think looked tired -- but that they simply lost focus. The Gophers led by 27 at the half and responded by taking their foot off Cardinal Stritch's throat.
- Because of that, Stritch improved their shooting percentage from 28 percent in the first to 42.4 percent in the second, outscored the Gophers by five in the half. Some of that was just sloppiness and laziness on the Gophers' part. But truly, playing this style will take intense focus throughout. We'll see how Minnesota improves in that area on Monday.
- In general, the rebounding effort was pretty poor. We knew this would be a conce rn with the froncourt somewhat in flux. But it's got to get better. Cardinal Stritch out-rebounding the Gophers, 40-34 is unacceptable. Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason each grabbed five, but getting 10 combined from the two seniors will hurt a lot when the guards aren't sharing the load. Offensive rebounds were particularly hard to come by, although the Gophers had fewer opportunities with a 54.4 shooting performance from the field.
- Back to the positives, two that were most notable: the Gophers had 23 assists to seven turnovers, excellent considering the frantic pace and the history of poor ball handling. Also, the Gophers only fouled 11 times which is impressive as they pressed for almost 35 minutes of the game. They also had 11 steals in the press, and turned over Cardinal Stritch 17 times.
- I like Deandre Mathieu at the point. Other than the small guard looking a bit fatigued in the second, he really drove the offense. His speed in transition is a huge asset.
- The starting lineup -- Deandre Mathieu, Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Oto Osenieks, Elliott Eliason -- could change again Monday. I wouldn't be surprised to see Pitino flip both big men for Joey King and Mo Walker. He said after the game that he plans to use all of those guys pretty evenly.
- Austin Hollins had some purdy dunks. The new Rodney Williams?