Hartman: Gophers basketball team is showing solid improvement

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 5, 2013 - 12:36 AM

Some reserves from last season have made solid contributions that have aided the team’s 7-2 start.


Gophers Oto OSenieks andFlorida State's Okaro White went after a loose ball during the first half at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

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The Gophers men’s basketball team, which defeated Florida State on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, is off to a 7-2 start, and the thing that impresses me about the team so far is the improvement of last season’s reserves.

Oto Osenieks has become a solid starter, Maurice Walker is playing much better since coming off a suspension, and Elliott Eliason is much stronger and appears to be twice the player he was last season.

Yes, Richard Pitino and his staff have done a great job improving some players, but we won’t know how good this team is until the Big Ten season starts.

Asked how he feels about the team, Pitino said the trip to the Maui Invitational showed a lot of good things and a lot of bad things.

“I think we showed the ability to play aggressively, never quit,” Pitino said. “I think we showed that the first game [a 75-67 loss to Syracuse] and then the third game [a 83-68 victory over Chaminade]. Just the second game [a 87-73 loss to Arkansas], I’m not sure we did a very good job of playing two good halves, like we were hoping to do.

“We learned a lot about our team — what we’re good at and what we’re bad at.

“Syracuse is good. The biggest thing is we did well [in that game] without Mo Walker and we were even with them on the backboards. So we’re undersized, and to do that showed great toughness by our team.”

Pitino believes Walker’s return will improve the team’s balance greatly.

“When he’s healthy and in shape, he can help a lot,’’ he said. “Then you have a more traditional lineup of two centers; you don’t have to play Joey King who is 6-7, 6-8 at the backup center spot.”

Pitino also said he likes the way his recruiting class is working, including some transfers who came to the team late after his hiring.

“They’re doing good. It’s not a traditional recruiting situation, so to bring those guys in late — DeAndre Mathieu is playing very well, we got him late. You bring in Malik Smith from FIU, and he’s shown to be able to hit tough shots. Joey King as well transferred, so they’re definitely filling a void we needed to be filled right away.”

Can this team compete in the Big Ten?

“I hope so,’’ Pitino said. “I think you have to take care of business certainly at home, that has to be an important part of what we’re doing and we’ve got to be disciplined and continue to improve and continue to get better.”

Pitino likes his freshmen recruits for next season, point guard Nate Mason, a Georgia native playing at Montrose Christian High School in Rockville, Md.; forward Josh Martin, from the Seattle suburb of Bothell, Wash.; and guard Carlos “Squirrel’’ Morris, a junior college recruit who is playing at Chipola College in Marianna, Fla.

“I think they’re going to bring something that we don’t have to this basketball team,” Pitino said. “They’re all different. One guy brings great athleticism, another guy brings great speed, and another one has a great ability to score the basketball. It’s all part of the building process, but they’re going to be a nice first recruiting class.”

Ravens on Peterson

Most of the defensive starters for the Baltimore Ravens weren’t with the team in 2009, the last time they faced the Vikings. In that game, Adrian Peterson rushed 22 times for 143 yards in a 33-31 victory.

Ravens defensive lineman Chris Canty is impressed with Peterson.

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Philadelphia 14
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Chicago 7:00 PM
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New Jersey 1
Anaheim 6:30 PM
NY Islanders 6:30 PM
Boston 7:00 PM
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Wilberforce 71 FINAL
Youngstown St 92
Jackson State 49 FINAL
Tulane 56
Siena 35 2nd Half 15:59
Radford 45
Stillman 2 1st Half 14:55
Alabama 8
Case Western Reserve 7 1st Half 12:48
Bucknell 17
Niagara 5 1st Half 13:34
Buffalo 11
SD Christian 10 1st Half 9:29
UC Santa Barbara 21
Concordia (MI) 15 1st Half 12:28
Central Mich 16
Northern Ill 8 1st Half 13:07
Dartmouth 6
North Florida 9 1st Half 15:39
Florida A&M 2
Hiwassee 7 1st Half 12:52
Gardner-Webb 17
Tennessee St 8 1st Half 14:24
Hampton 4
NC A&T 6 1st Half 13:08
Kent State 8
Central Penn College 11 1st Half 12:14
Liberty 20
Bethune-Cookman 6:00 PM
Eastern Ky 8 1st Half 12:29
Miami-Florida 3
Northern Ky 26 1st Half 10:45
Morehead State 6
Northern Ariz 11 1st Half 11:46
Norfolk State 16
MD-Eastern Shore 9 1st Half 13:33
Old Dominion 10
St Marys-CA 13 1st Half 11:46
St Johns 6
Clemson 7 1st Half 11:28
South Carolina 16
Tenn Tech 13 1st Half 12:30
Tennessee 12
Washington-MD 2 1st Half 15:16
William & Mary 11
Furman 6:30 PM
Fla Gulf Coast
South Dakota St 6:30 PM
Milligan 7:00 PM
LSU-Alexandria 7:00 PM
Southern Utah 7:00 PM
Chattanooga 7:00 PM
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Stetson 76
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Charleston Southern 43
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Alcorn State 57
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Wright State 72
Blue Mountain 30 FINAL
Central Arkansas 71
Texas State 51 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 40
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Pepperdine 36
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Houston 56
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Bucknell 73
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Fla Gulf Coast 69
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Mercer 83
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Winthrop 57
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Princeton 104
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Nicholls 27 2nd Half
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Nevada 26
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Houston Baptist 20
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Seton Hall 25
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Stony Brook 2
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Binghamton 10
Longwood 7 1st Half 15:31
Clemson 6
Savannah State 9 1st Half 14:05
Florida State 18
(19) Syracuse 5 1st Half 13:13
(9) Baylor 12
Buffalo 5 1st Half 15:38
Manhattan 5
Davidson 14 1st Half 13:18
NC State 15
Northern Ky 14 1st Half 12:28
Delaware 11
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Austin Peay
(25) DePaul 6:30 PM
(2) Connecticut
Ohio U 6:30 PM
La Salle
Florida Atlantic 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
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Bowling Green 7:05 PM
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Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




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