(A hearty thanks to my colleague Michael Rand for collecting quotes at today’s news conference while I traveled to beautiful South Dakota. Rand, I owe you one of those Peace Coffee gluten-free bacon donuts. Yeah, a gluten-free bacon donut. All the emoticons.)
Coach Richard Pitino hinted that freshman Dupree McBrayer will get some more playing time moving forward, and the guard could be in the starting lineup on Saturday vs. Oklahoma State in Sioux Falls.
“I think that Dupree showed that he has been pretty good, I think he’s starting to evolve a little bit, so we’re looking at a couple of things there,” Pitino said. “The biggest thing is you’ve got to play the guys who are communicating and just getting out of that comfort zone on the court.”
Pitino wouldn’t say for sure whether he was considering starting McBrayer, but he agreed that he would like to see more of him on the court.
McBrayer was averaging 14.6 minutes a game heading into Tuesday’s 84-70 loss to South Dakota State, but he finished the night playing a season-high 28 minutes. He started the second half in place of Charles Buggs, who had made a few bad defensive mistakes. McBrayer, who also had a new career-high in points with 13 on Tuesday, is averaging just 3.3 points and 1.7 rebounds while shooting 14.7 percent (5-for-34) from the field, but the young guard has shown a steadiness and defensive capability that has impressed Pitino.
"Dupree is setting himself aside by keeping on playing and playing hard," sophomore guard Nate Mason said. "I feel like he plays hard all 40 minutes every time he gets in the game. He’s definitely earned that spot.
"Once he slows down and is able to adjust to the pace of the game, I feel like he’ll be making more shots than he’s making right now. You guys can see the talent that he has. He’s in the gym, so he’s putting in the work."
Pitino also cited the 6-4 New York native’s length as a benefit to a struggling defensive team.
“I think some of our defensive issues are length,” Pitino said. “We’re having a lot of different issues but guys are making challenged shots on us. I think if you get length, maybe it will help a little bit more.”
As far as changing anything strategically or system-wise? Pitino said probably not.
“I don’t think we’re going to abandon anything necessarily, I think it’s just stick with what we’re doing and get better at it and tinker as much as we possibly can,” he said.
Minnesotat associate athletic communications director Dan Reisig confirmed that it was a left leg injury that kept backup center Gaston Diedhiou out of Tuesday's loss to SDSU. It was the first game this season that the 6-10 Diedhiou -- who is averaging 0.8 points and one rebound in six minutes a game -- didn't play at all.
Pitino said that Diedhiou sustained the injury Monday in practice. No word on the seriousness of the injury or whether it will affect Diedhiou's status tomorrow in Sioux Falls.
Gophers fans should expect Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford to argue any calls he doesn't approve of on Saturday -- it seems he can't help himself.
Ford was ejected from his son's high school basketball game on Thursday after his said something to the officials. He was there as a spectator, seated a few rows behind the team's bench according to the Tulsa World.
A few witnesses the World reporter spoke with, though, said Ford didn't appear to be out of hand at all, with one person saying he hadn't even heard Ford yell.
Pitino leans on Ford for advice.
Pitino spoke briefly about his strong relationship with Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford, drawing similarities between their age (Ford is 45; Pitino is 33) and the schools at which they coach (both are in big conferences; neither are traditional powerhouses):
“He has been so good with m,” Pitino said. “Oklahoma State is a different type of situation. So talking with him about how he’s gotten that team to a level … he’s been really really stable, and that’s where I have so much respect for Travis. He’s still a young coach, much like myself. I’ve always bounced some things off of him …we can relate about a lot of things. He’s a great coach, he was a great player, tough as nails, fearless, and he’s done a great job at Oklahoma State."