Gophers basketball coach Richard Pitino said Wednesday it was difficult to hear about the firing of football coach Tracy Claeys, because they had a good relationship.
Pitino was asked about Claeys during his first news conference since the Gophers upset No. 15 Purdue 91-82 in overtime Sunday in West Lafayette, Ind. They play Thursday at Northwestern.
“When you have personal relationships with all those guys, they’ve been great,” Pitino said of Claeys' staff. “They’ve all been there since I’ve been here. So you know all those guys. So it’s difficult to hear it. Unfortunately, it’s part of our profession. You get to know guys and tough decisions need to be made. I wish all those guys luck. They were always very, very good to me.”
“Whenever we needed something they were always very, very accommodating. I hope they land on their feet, find a new home and flourish in this business.”
Sophomore forward Jordan Murphy said he didn’t know any football players well, but he wished them the best.
“I feel for them,” he said. “I don’t really know the football players like that, but I definitely feel for them in that time right now.”
Northwestern dominance: The Gophers lost both games to Northwestern last season by a combined 49 points, including 82-58 in Evanston, Ill. They were two of the largest margins of defeat in the regular season last year.
The Wildcats "beat our brains in," Pitino said about last season.
"I think because of the way they played defense last year was kind of a weird matchup zone," Murphy said. "They don't play that really this year, so I think they're a way better matchup with the talent that we have."
Big men for three: Lost in the historic performance from Nate Mason with 31 points and 11 assists in Sunday's win at Purdue was the fact that power forwards Murphy and Eric Curry both hit multiple three-pointers in a game for the first time this season.
Curry was 1-for-7 from the three-point line entering the game. Murphy was 1-for-11 shooting from beyond the arc before playing Purdue. But they both combined to shoot 4-for-9 from three Sunday.
"If we're open, we're just going to keep shooting and see if we're lucky enough," Murphy said. "It opens up a lot more driving lanes. We definitely can do more drive and kick stuff. We'll keep practicing our shooting and getting better. It's going to help our game a lot more."