Charles Buggs said on Monday that he’s been bothered by a lingering knee issue that he thought would keep him out of the game vs. Clemson.

The redshirt junior forward had surgery to clean out built-up cartilage in his left knee in the summer of 2014, and had some soreness throughout the season last year.

Monday, when coach Richard Pitino opted to bring Buggs off the bench after starting him for the first six games, was the first hint that the troubles are persisting this season. Pitino said Buggs didn’t participate in Monday’s shoot-around with the team and the forward added that he was limited in practice the day before.

“I didn’t even know if I was going to play today,” Buggs said after the 89-83 win over Clemson. “I was doing treatment right before the game. It was hard for me to run. But I got some medicine, did some treatment before the game and tried to work through it.”

It worked out pretty well, of course. Buggs finished with a career-high 15 points on 5-for-9 shooting with four rebounds and a steal. He hit a big three-pointer and nailed two free throws during a 12-1 run that put Minnesota on top of the Tigers by 6 – all signals that even if Buggs isn’t at his best, he can be quite effective.

“At shoot-around, I was hesitant about stuff, but I got over it,” he said. “I had to. It was a big game, so I had to.

“This year, I don’t care if it’s hurting – I’ve got to play through it. Because I’ve got big goals and big things to do this year. It’s more of just having the mentality to get through it and play the whole time even if it’s hurting.”

DUNK COMPTETITION

Buggs, the team’s resident athletic freak, has some dunk competition now with freshman Jordan Murphy in the fold.

Buggs contends that while Murphy has the advantage from two feet, he’s better off one foot. But so far, there have been no dunk contests in practice.

“[Murphy is] more of a straight game dunker, he’s not really a trick dunker so we never tried that,” Buggs said. “I like to get out fast, fast break dunks. He’s more of the body type bump dunks.”

Buggs also compared Murphy to former Gophers player Trevor Mbakwe, who was certainly a two-footed, under-the-basket dunker.

“I was thinking about that today,” Buggs said. “I feel like [Murphy] can dribble a little better than Trevor, but he reminds me of a young Trevor with rebounding and using his body to get up strong. But he’s got to get the scream going when he dunks the ball. He’s still learning, though. He’s still young.”

NEW RULES UPDATE

There have been plenty of gripes about the NCAA’s newly unveiled rules this season, but so far, numbers show the changes are addressing the problem they were meant to: scoring.

According to David Worlock, director of media coordination and statistics for the NCAA, these are some of the national trends through Sunday’s games:

*Scoring is up from 67.64 points per game last year to 74.61 points per game so far this year. At this point of the season last year, scoring was at 68.97.

*Field goal percentage is up from 43.49 to 44.18 percent. Last year at this time, the percentage was 43.51.

*Possessions per game are up from 65.78 to 71.29. Last year at this time, possessions were at 67.62.

*Points per possession have risen from 1.028 to 1.047. Last year at this time, the points per possession were 1.020.

Whether those bumps have led to a more exciting game is a matter of opinion, but it is an early signal that these changes might actually do what they’re intended to do.

Of course, there is another big change that some in the game might be focusing on more – fouls.

At this point of the season, there are 20.22 called per game, up from last year’s average of 18.92 at this juncture.

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