University of Minnesota freshman Ahmad Gilbert will be available for tomorrow's home game against Michigan, coach Richard Pitino said on Tuesday evening, after sitting out the last five games.
Gilbert dislocated a finger on his left hand in the Gophers game against Indiana on Jan. 16 and had surgery on the digit the following day. Pitino said Gilbert practiced without contact on Sunday and was "full go" both yesterday and today.
The wing is averaging 2.4 points and 0.9 rebounds in 8.1 minutes a game on the season, but prior to his injury, the wing had started to noticeably improve on the court, starting against Indiana for the second game.
Another bonus of Gilbert's return? He's one of the only natural shooters -- albeit a raw one -- on the team outside of senior Joey King. Shooting has been a major deficit for Minnesota this season. The Gophers are shooting 28.4 percent from beyond the arc in conference play, second worst in the league.
"He had to get quicker," Pitino said of Gilbert. "I think the speed of the game got to him a little bit, but I thought he was trending the right way and then he got hurt."
Pitino on Louisville.
Last week, the news came out of Louisville that Rick Pitino's Cardinals were self-imposing a postseason ban following undisclosed information that came to light during the university's in-house investigation. Much has been made about how the unexpected, late-year punishment affects Damion Lee and Trey Lewish, two graduate transfers who clearly had nothing to do with any of the wrongdoing, but who came to the program in large part because of the strong chance of getting to the NCAA tournament.
Richard Pitino weighed in on the reality facing his father's program:
"It's a difficult situation," he said. "To kind of be thrown in that a couple of days ago is hard and I feel bad for those guys, Damion and Trey because they're really good kids. I don't know them really well, I've met them a couple times and they seem like great kids.
"But whoever said it was going to be fair? Everybody sits around and talks about 'it's not fair, this and that.' Well life's not fair. And that's OK. That's part of the deal. So I feel bad for those guys but I know they'll make the best of however many weeks they have left and I think they showed that. It was a great game last night, they were playing with great passion, pride. There is still a lot to play for. Those guys have the potential to play in the NBA ...I think they're still in the hunt for the ACC title. So there is still a lot to play for. It stinks for those guys, I feel for them, but there's no perfect fix to any of these things."
Mason bothered, but better.
Pitino also noted that Nate Mason was bothered by a minor heel injury in the Gophers' 82-58 loss at Northwestern.
The point guard, who was averaging 20 points and 7.3 assists in the previous four games, managed just eight points and two assists against the Wildcats. Pitino said Mason first complained about the issue -- which he called a bruise -- a week ago, but didn't bring it up on Thursday.
"I asked him after the game, I said 'What was wrong with you?'" Pitino said. "He said my heel hurts. I said Nate, 'You've got to tell us if you're hurt.' He made a good point, he said 'What am I going to tell a coach during a game that I'm hurt?' I get it but if he's not 100 percent, he's got to let us know and we've got to get him out.
"But I don't think it was anything serious, he's better now, he seems fine."
Wednesday's game vs. Michigan (8 p.m. Big Ten Network) is being promoted as a "maroon out." Gophers fans are encouraged to wear all maroon and Pitino is rumored to be wearing a maroon jacket.