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.

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Pitino very pleased with Saturday's win and other notes from today's Gophers access

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players, Richard Pitino Updated: November 18, 2013 - 5:53 PM

After watching the tape, Richard Pitino said he's even more pleased with his team's performance on Saturday than he was immediately afterward.

The Gophers beat Richmond, 74-59 on the Spiders' court, going on a 19-0 to finish what had been a close game throughout the end of the first and most of the second half.

Pitino said Minnesota basically scrapped it's offensive plays for the matchup, because of Richmond's switching man-to-man defense. In the final seven minutes of the game, the Gophers were able to unleash a scoring firestorm, while completely shutting down the Spiders' offense with their zone defense. The Gophers -- who were shorthanded almost the entire game because of players in foul trouble -- also outrebounded Richmond, 54-37.

"[It's probably a much better win than people realize," the coach said. "I remember when I took the job, I saw that on the schedule and I thought ‘God, that’s going to be a hard game, especially early in the season.’ To execute a game plan almost to perfection, the guys were phenomenal. Very proud of them."

Pitino laid a lot of the credit on Andre Hollins, who he noted the team leaned on even more heavily than usual on Saturday and the one natural driving guard who wasn't in much foul trouble. In turn, Hollins was fantastic, scoring 26 points and grabbing seven rebounds.

"Without Andre Hollins, especially toward the end of that first half, we would have been in trouble," Pitino said. "He definitely carried us."

A few other notes from today's player and coach access:

  • The Gophers won the loose ball count on Saturday for the first time this season, 7-3
  • Pitino found the silver lining in center Mo Walker being out serving a six-game suspension, which has left Minnesota's frontcourt especially thin. "It’s probably our basketball team a little bit because we understand what our deficiencies are," Pitino said. "We went to Richmond and outrebounded them by 14 or 15 … to do that, with only one center and then two really undersized guys and a bunch of guards, just shows the type of heart we played with."
  • Oto Osenieks gave the coaching change a lot of credit for his uptick in play this season. He is averaging 7.7 points and 4.7 rebounds a game. "He’s just really positive," Osenieks said of Pitino. "And [former Gophers] coach [Tubby] Smith, they’re both really great coaches. But I can relate more to coach Pitino because, I guess, he’s younger."
  • Malik Smith had plenty of compliments for Andre Hollins and how well he's played this season. "We need him to do that," he said. "He’s one of the best guards in the country and when you have a person like that, you have to take advantage of that. When I’m out there, I’m just trying to be aggressive as well without trying to step on his feet. We work together pretty good I think." He paused when asked if Hollins was a better shooter than him before exclaiming "Nah!" and joking that he would prevail in a game of H.O.R.S.E. Maybe we'll get a game set up between the two someday so Smith can try to prove it.
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