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 pregame: Minnesota anticipating a physical battle vs. Purdue

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: January 5, 2014 - 12:55 PM

Read my story on Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker, and their friendly competition this season, in today's Star Tribune.

In Sunday's practice, Gophers coach Richard Pitino slacked off a little. 

Well, with the officiating. 

Everything else was more intense than ever, point guard DeAndre Mathieu said.

This afternoon (1:30 CT tip-off, BTN, 1500-AM), the Gophers, who are now 0-1 in the Big Ten after dropping their opener to Michigan on Thursday, face Purdue in their second league game of the year. They're expecting a battle.

"[Coach] said they're going to be one of the most physical teams we play against," Mathieu said. 

So Pitino had them practicing as such -- conducting rebounding drills over and over, and going through offensive drills while being heavily and intensely guarded, while calling fewer fouls than usual.

As it was, Mathieu, who came to Minnesota from Central Arizona College, noticed a big change in the physicality against Michigan, his first Big Ten game. The 5-9 guard's shot was blocked several times by the Wolverines, including a dunk attempt that was easily tossed by Glenn Robinson III. Against Purdue, which blocks shots at the 24th best rate in the country, according to kenpom.com, those challenges only become greater. Center A.J. Hammons is the third best shot-blocker in the country, and is coming off an 18-point, 16-rebound game against No. 3 Ohio State on Dec. 31. That means the Boilermakers have also had more time to prepare for Minnesota, which has the opportunity of starting off the year with a pair of games at home.

"He's a pro in my opinion," Pitino said of Hammons.  "He's got the size, he's got the skill. He's a very, very tough matchup for us. He's probably the best big man in the league, just because he affects the game offensively and defensively. It's going to be a tough test for him and Mo. We certainly have got to help them, we can't rely on them to do it all themselves."

Other notes:

* Redshirt freshman forward Charles Buggs has been incorporated back into practice, and should be available on Sunday.

* Pitino said that after reviewing the tape, he thinks that Austin Hollins' poor offensive performance on Thursday was just due to poor shot selection. "He took five 'challenged shots [something the staff tracks themselves]' which are a low-percentage shot," Pitino said. "It's not his mechanics, it's not his confidence, he's just taking tough shots."

* Pitino on Mathieu's dunk attempt against Michigan: "The one he tried to dunk on he just had no chance. He was just trying to show people that he can jump high. And it was just a silly play. He's got to do a better job, especially at the end of the game, of just getting people open shots. He'll learn from it."

* Mathieu seemed pretty upset with himself, still, after committing five turnovers on Thursday, including two in the last 1:26. "The last five minutes was just ridiculous," Mathieu said. "Just for me, turning the ball over, not making the right decisions, I've got to get better, got to get better in crunch time if I'm going to be a starting point guard ... no one wants to make those mistakes. They were crucial mistakes though and it really hurt so I kind of beat myself up for it. But I'll get better." 

* Asked whether he regrets not getting shooting specialist Malik Smith more minutes at the end of the game, Pitino said "not really," pointing out that while offensively that combination can be hard to guard, the defensive matchups were much more challenging for Minnesota.

*The Gophers went 1-for-13 in "challenged shots" on Thursday, Pitino said.

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