Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said on Wednesday that he thinks the key to mastering the new NCAA guidelines on touch fouls – which were introduced last year and emphasized again before the season – is improving the help defense in order to better protect the paint.
It’s something the team focused on during an extra practice on Tuesday, Pitino said, with Minnesota adding an early-morning practice after Monday’s day off in addition to the regular afternoon practice.
“Make sure you do it, don’t stare at the ball,” Pitino said. “Because guys are going to get beat, and you have to rotate.”
The Gophers have collected 48 fouls in the last two games, and foul trouble contributed to Minnesota’s 81-68 loss to Texas Tech on Sunday.
Pitino said that although there are no new fouling guidelines this season, he sees the officials calling last year’s touch foul emphases more intensely.
“When it comes to the hand-checking stuff, I guess now it’s not a point of emphasis, it’s you better do it or else type of thing,” he said. “When you play nationally televised games, those refs are being told – you better call those fouls or else.”
“We’ve got to be ready. We’ve got some games that may not look tough on paper but they’re pretty tough.
“I’m kind of sitting there thinking to myself – what was I thinking? With the youngest team. But I wanted to know something about our team. We found out something about our team in Puerto Rico, what we need to improve on. And I think all these games that we’re playing are going to be challenges besides the Clemsons and the Oklahoma States of the world … You see scores every night – some of these surprising scores are not so surprising to us because anyone can beat anybody any day.”
Pitino didn’t have much to say regarding Texas Tech coach Tubby Smith’s comments about his former employer on Sunday after beating Minnesota.
“It was almost like this storyline that people were trying to create when none of us were there or had anything to do with it,” he said. “I don’t know specifically what he said but for us it was almost like ‘Well, nobody around here that let you go is here anymore. Nobody played for you besides [Charles] Buggs and he didn’t play for you [he redshirted].’ I thought that part of it, the storyline was being forced a little bit.
“I’ve got unbelievable amount of respect for Coach Smith. I always root for him. I rooted for him while he was here, I root for him when he’s at Texas Tech.”
Pitino said the team will likely go see the movie “Creed” on Wednesday evening – “might get a little fight in them,” the coach said – and practice at 9:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving, then meet at his house to watch film and have a meal around 5:30. His wife is cooking.
What’s on the menu?
“Turkey, it’s kind of an American tradition,” he said. “I think all the typical stuff. I don’t know, that’s her department.”