The Gophers are coming off a bad loss vs. South Dakota at home, but on Monday, there was another indication that Minnesota has a future to look forward to.
Forward Jordan Murphy was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the first time following a pair of double-double performances, giving the Gophers two weekly conference awards on the season.
Murphy has totaled 36 points and 27 rebounds in games vs. Clemson and South Dakota, coming off the bench for both. The San Antonio native is the first Gophers freshman to post a double-double since Kris Humphries did so in 2003-04. His 24 points vs. Clemson was the most a Minnesota player has scored since Andre Hollins in 2012. Murphy grabbed two offensive rebounds and finally tipped in Nate Mason's miss at the buzzer to force overtime vs. South Dakota on Saturday.
"I think what excites me about Jordan Murphy is he’s doing a lot that has nothing to do with coaching," coach Richard Pitino said. "He’s making talent plays. That last play we made for Nate going to the rim, I didn’t tell him hey, if Nate misses it, tip it, keep it alive, tip it again. That’s just sheer talent and will."
Murphy is averaging 10.5 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 54.2 percent from the field. Pitino has lauded him as an all-around student-athlete all season.
"He’s as good of a teammate as he appears," Pitino said. "He’s as mature as he appears. He’s rarely had a bad practice. He’s all about winning. He doesn’t care what position he plays, he doesn’t care if he starts, he doesn’t care if he comes off the bench. They love him in the academic center, they love him everywhere, he’s that fun to deal with and he’s good at basketball too, which is really nice."
Joey King was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Nov. 16. Mason was the last Minnesota player to earn Freshman of the Week honors. He received the award last December. Murphy's FOW nod is only the program's third ever.
Konate still shaping up
Pitino said there is still a focus on getting starting center Bakary Konate into shape after the big man missed a month of practice before the season with a foot injury. Konate has been visibly winded during games and has required a lot of breaks.
"He’s still not there," Pitino said on Monday. "He looks tired. We did some stuff with him yesterday and we’ve got to continue to.
"I think a lot of it too is emotionally, he tires himself out. Refs bother him. When things don’t go his way, it bothers him and I think that drains him too, so maybe calming him down emotionally may help his wind a little more."