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Pitino says help defense is the key to not fouling

Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said on Wednesday that he thinks the key to mastering the new NCAA guidelines on touch fouls – which were introduced last year and emphasized again before the season – is improving the help defense in order to better protect the paint.

It’s something the team focused on during an extra practice on Tuesday, Pitino said, with Minnesota adding an early-morning practice after Monday’s day off in addition to the regular afternoon practice.

“Make sure you do it, don’t stare at the ball,” Pitino said. “Because guys are going to get beat, and you have to rotate.”

The Gophers have collected 48 fouls in the last two games, and foul trouble contributed to Minnesota’s 81-68 loss to Texas Tech on Sunday.

Pitino said that although there are no new fouling guidelines this season, he sees the officials calling last year’s touch foul emphases more intensely.

“When it comes to the hand-checking stuff, I guess now it’s not a point of emphasis, it’s you better do it or else type of thing,” he said. “When you play nationally televised games, those refs are being told – you better call those fouls or else.”


Pitino on the rest of the schedule in November and December:

“We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got some games that may not look tough on paper but they’re pretty tough.

“I’m kind of sitting there thinking to myself – what was I thinking? With the youngest team. But I wanted to know something about our team. We found out something about our team in Puerto Rico, what we need to improve on. And I think all these games that we’re playing are going to be challenges besides the Clemsons and the Oklahoma States of the world … You see scores every night – some of these surprising scores are not so surprising to us because anyone can beat anybody any day.”


Pitino didn’t have much to say regarding Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith’s comments about his former employer on Sunday after beating Minnesota.

“It was almost like this storyline that people were trying to create when none of us were there or had anything to do with it,” he said. “I don’t know specifically what he said but for us it was almost like ‘Well, nobody around here that let you go is here anymore. Nobody played for you besides [Charles] Buggs and he didn’t play for you [he redshirted].’ I thought that part of it, the storyline was being forced a little bit.

“I’ve got unbelievable amount of respect for Coach Smith. I always root for him. I rooted for him while he was here, I root for him when he’s at Texas Tech.”


Pitino said the team will likely go see the movie “Creed” on Wednesday evening – “might get a little fight in them,” the coach said – and practice at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving, then meet at his house to watch film and have a meal around 5:30. His wife is cooking.

What’s on the menu?       

“Turkey, it’s kind of an American tradition,” he said. “I think all the typical stuff. I don’t know, that’s her department.”

Rayno: A look at the next month for Gophers' basketball

By Sunday night, it was clear that the Puerto Rico Tip-Off had not gone the way Richard Pitino had hoped.

The Gophers coach sounded on edge with references to the matchup with Texas Tech and former Minnesota coach Tubby Smith – asked whether Smith said anything to him before the game, Pitino replied “nothing newsworthy,” – frustrated with the team’s fouling proclivity and somewhat baffled by the defensive struggles.

There was plenty of cause. Heading into Puerto Rico, I thought Minnesota might take only one of three and I think many reasonable people agreed. So in some ways, absolutely nothing unexpected has happened thus far. But on the other hand, the Gophers have already displayed gaping flaws in some areas and fell by 13 to Texas Tech one game after nearly giving away a win vs. a not-very-good Missouri State team.

The team has the talent to be competitive but as we’ve always known, this year’s squad is young, raw and inexperienced. Right now, that youth is showing itself in inconsistent defense, timid offense, poor rebounding effort and glaring fouls.

The question now is whether Minnesota can move past a bad long weekend and pick up some steam through the rest of this month and next – or whether a not-so-easy slate between now and New Years’ will put the Gophers on the path toward the basement.

“We’ll bounce back no problem,” Pitino said on Sunday. “We’ve played five games, we’ve got like 25 more to go. When you’re in a conference like we’re in, you’re never out of it.”

A look at the games ahead:

Friday: Nebraska Omaha – This should be the epitome of a get-back-on-track game vs. the Mavericks who just completed a four-year transition into Division I. The only problem here? Omaha has been very efficient in getting to the line, dating back to last year. And Omaha will be at least a little motivated by a homecoming of sorts with three players, including JT Gibson, Minnesota’s 2015 Mr. Basketball, coming to town. Still, the Gophers should dismiss the Mavericks easily. If not, there is trouble ahead given what other teams are on this list …

Monday: Clemson – The Tigers don’t have the top-to-bottom scoring this year to be totally scary, but their defense – ranked 43rd nationally in defensive efficiency by analyst Ken Pomeroy – will make Clemson a force to break. Six-7 junior Jaron Blossomgame is a well-rounded forward and has the potential to go off offensively.

Dec. 5: South Dakota – The Coyotes lost a lot from a year ago and shouldn’t be much of a threat, but watch out for Casey Kasperbauer shooting threes and Tre Burnette, who was in the national top-40 in defensive rebounding percentage last year.

Dec. 8: South Dakota State – As “South Dakota week” continues, the Jackrabbits will bring a different story. Scott Nagy’s team is sound defensively, quick paced, full of shooters and the overwhelming favorite to win the Summit league this year. South Dakota State has one of the better non-Power Five backcourts in star guard DeOndre Parks, a popular pick for league Player of the Year and George Marshall, and 6-9 freshman Mike Baum has been huge on the boards early, average 7.8 a game. The game could go either way, and Minnesota has the benefit of being at home, but the Jackrabbits have more than enough talent to bring the Gophers down.

Dec. 12: Oklahoma State (in Sioux Falls, S.D.) – The Cowboys aren’t expected to be major players in the Big 12, but last year they made the NCAA tournament after starting the season in a similar position. This Oklahoma State team lost three of its top three scorers, but bring back Phil Forte III, one of the league’s top guards. Offensively, Oklahoma State doesn’t turn the ball over. And freshman Juwan Evan, supposedly the Cowboys’ bet recruit since Marcus Smart, has already brought a lot to the table with rebounding, scoring and steals.

Dec. 16: Chicago State – This is the “gimme” out of the bunch – one of the worst teams in Division I with a terrible offense and no interior defense. That said, the Cougars NEARLY beat Illinois in Springfield on Monday after knocking down 11 three-pointers.

Dec. 23: Milwaukee – Minnesota will end its non-conference slate with a squad that is no pushover, especially on the boards, where the Panthers rank fourth in the nation in total rebounds. That effort is led by 6-8 senior Matt Tiby, who has the 15th best defensive rebounding rate in the nation a year ago.

TV Listings

Local Schedule

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  • Vancouver at Wild

    6 pm on FSN PLUS, 106.1-FM

  • Atlanta at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Nebraska-Omaha at Gophers men's basketball

    2 pm on 1500-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at MSU Mankato

    2:07 pm

  • Winnipeg at Wild

    3 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's basketball vs. Stetson

    3:45 pm on 88.5-FM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers men's hockey

    6 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Timberwolves at Sacramento

    9 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • Gophers women's hockey at MSU Mankato

    2:07 pm

  • Wisconsin at Gophers football

    2:30 pm on BTN, 100.3-FM

  • Gophers women's basketball vs. Auburn

    6 pm on 1500-AM

  • Dallas at Wild

    7 pm on FSN, 100.3-FM

  • Vikings at Atlanta

    12 pm on Ch. 9, 100.3/1130

  • Timberwolves at L.A. Clippers

    2:30 pm on FSN, 830-AM

  • St. Cloud State at Gophers men's hockey

    6:35 pm on FSN, 1500-AM

  • Clemson at Gophers men's basketball

    8 pm on ESPN2, 1500-AM

  • Wild at Chicago

    7 pm on NBCSN, 100.3-FM

  • Orlando at Timberwolves

    7 pm on FSN, 830-AM

Today's Scoreboard

No games for NFL

  • Vancouver



    - 1st, 2:23



  • Nashville



    - End 1st



  • Edmonton



    - 1st, 0:10



  • Columbus

    New Jersey


    - End 1st



  • Montreal

    NY Rangers


    - 1st, 2:51



  • St. Louis



    - End 1st



  • Winnipeg



    - End 1st



  • Boston



    - 1st, 14:40



  • Philadelphia

    NY Islanders


    - 1st, 16:13



  • Los Angeles

    Tampa Bay


    - 1st, 16:50



  • Anaheim


    8:00 PM

  • Ottawa


    8:30 PM

  • Chicago

    San Jose

    9:00 PM

    NBC Sports

  • New York



    - 2nd, 9:08



  • Washington



    - 2nd, 5:56



  • Philadelphia



    - 1st, 8:56



  • Cleveland



    - 1st, 8:54



  • Miami



    - 1st, 9:25



  • Atlanta


    7:00 PM

  • Sacramento


    7:00 PM

  • Memphis


    7:00 PM


  • Brooklyn

    Oklahoma City

    7:00 PM

  • Dallas

    San Antonio

    7:30 PM

  • New Orleans


    8:00 PM


  • Utah

    LA Clippers

    9:30 PM

No games for MLS