This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Gophers just need to work on psyche, Smith says

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers players Updated: January 28, 2013 - 8:00 PM

When a team goes through a slump like the one the Gophers are enduring right now, it’s hard to come up with rhyme or reason or solutions.

After all, if they knew how to get out of this, they wouldn’t be there – right?

Coach Tubby Smith spent some time Monday talking about the team’s psyche and how to repair their mental state. With things not going their way, he’s said the players’ reaction is to try to do more, but that forcing it has only made things worse.

“We’ve just got to get a win,” he said. “All we do is talk about it and go through things, correct the things we’ve got to correct. There’s no magic tool – it’s just a matter of cutting back on our mistakes, and getting guys to really believe in what we’re doing, trust one another, play for each other, that type of thing. What happens is guys start to try to do too much. ‘I’ve got to do more.’ No actually, you’ve got to do less, so we can do more.”

Last year at one point, Smith called upon a psychologist to help the team find its way. At this point of the season, he hasn’t yet decided on that same strategy, he said.

More notes from today’s media access:

  • Despite the struggles, Smith is still happy with his current lineup, he said.
  • Asked whether after four losses it was time to panic, Smith said: “There’s always panic, man. There’s a pandemic when you lose, especially when you lose four in a row, yeah … there’s a sense of urgency that you’ve got to get the job done and get better.”
  • Despite that the Gophers struggled against two teams – Wisconsin and Northwestern – that successfully controlled the pace against the normally up-tempo Minnesota, Smith dismissed that opponents might go out of their way to slow it down vs. the Gophers. “It’s turnovers that are killing us,” he said. “We’re slowing ourselves down, and that’s been our biggest issue, we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot, the mistakes we make in the game and it’s just hard to overcome.”
  • On Austin Hollins, who struggled against Wisconsin with just two points: “He’s a hard worker, he’ll be fine. He’s kind of the glue to us: even when he’s not making shots, he’s still a good leader for us”.
  • In the last two games, Smith has switched up his substitution methods significantly, switching out starters two or three at a time rather than doing his wholesale five-one-five line changes. The coach said that strategy is still in flux. “I thought we had a pretty set rotation, but it didn’t work out that way,” he said. “We need to get some more production from [the bench].”
  • On Rodney Williams’ struggles: “I don’t know what it is. He’s one of those guys that, they tipped him the other day, and he got hit going up in the air for a lob – it’s all mental, I think, with Rodney. Obviously, the physical is fine. If he can make some shots early, get him involved early in the game, I’d like to see him be more aggressive on the offensive boards. He’s got to find more opportunities for himself in the game.”
  • Trevor Mbakwe said the coaching staff has placed a higher priority on screening in the half-court offense during the last few practices. The Gophers have struggled substantially in the half-court for the last several games, and have often looked stagnant. “Coach has been emphasizing screening more, everybody screening, guards screen for bigs, big screen for guards,” he said.

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