Much thanks to my editor Michael Rand for grabbing quotes from Gophers’ access today. I am already in Indy. I just hope he doesn’t gain any followers for the labor. #BeatRandBall.
As could be predicted given the Nebraska flop, Gophers coach Tubby Smith said on Friday that he will “probably” go back to the original starting five – Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins, Joe Coleman, Rodney Williams and Trevor Mbakwe -- for Saturday’s final game of the regular season, at Purdue.
That – although I wouldn’t mind seeing a lineup with Coleman off the bench, Welch in his place and yes, please, don’t allow Andre Hollins to be a reserve – is probably the best move since let’s be honest: it’s March now, and not the ideal time to be experimenting with such meaningful changes.
Smith, however, still seemed exceedingly frustrated with his troupe of players on Friday. He’s watched this team’s confidence and production rise and fall over the course of the season, and at times he seems out of answers.
“We haven’t really reached our potential,” he said. “Looking back on the last outing, it was just a tough, tough situation. If we get 5 free throws, I’m in a different mood. We’re all in a different mood. But we didn’t. We lost.”
Other quick notes from today’s access:
- Both Smith and the players said free throws have been a big emphasis since Tuesday’s game. The Gophers went 10-for-20 from the stripe at Nebraska, and have managed just 54 percent of their attempts in the last two games combined.
- Smith said that he thinks a lot of Williams’ struggles on Wednesday can be attributed to the forward playing on the wing again – something Smith said he wanted to see again. “Probably so,” he said. “He didn’t really run the floor like he should have. He was in an unfamiliar area, where he hadn’t been for a couple games. So it was tough.”
- Julian Welch was sick on Friday and missed practice, but is expected to play on Saturday.
- Smith said he often talks to former Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders (and someone fans perpetually like to put in the rumor conversation for a potential replacement for Smith) about coaching. “We always talk basketball,” Smith said. “He’s one of the best minds in the game. He always gives me little tidbits.”
- Mbakwe said that despite the ups and downs, he still believes the Gophers are “one of the best” in the country.
- Austin Hollins on what he’s trying to do – other than getting in the gym – to combat his shooting slump: “Just stay positive,” he said. “I know earlier in the season, I hit shots. Just coming back and getting that mindset when I’m on the floor – just being confident when I shoot, don’t hesitate because I’ve been missing shots, you know. So just stepping up to the line and knocking them down because my teammates in me have the confidence that I’ll make the shot, so I just need to step up and make it.”