The Gophers aren't ready to play games that actually count just yet, but they made progress beating DePaul by 19 points in a closed scrimmage Saturday at home.
Transfers Akeem Springs and Reggie Lynch were two of the biggest storylines from the scrimmage.
Springs led the team in scoring with 21 points on 7-for-13 shooting from three-point range. Lynch, who had been limited after knee surgery last month, was fully cleared to play. The 6-foot-10 junior center had as many points as fouls (six) in 15 minutes. But Lynch's return is a positive sign before the season opener Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Lafayette.
Minnesota played at Iowa State two seasons ago. These used to be called "secret scrimmages," but now NCAA rules allow coaches to talk about them.
"It’s going to take some time to get Reggie in shape and adjusted," Gophers coach Richard Pitino wrote in his blog Monday. "He will get there. Just has to consistently practice."
Springs, a senior guard, stirred things about a week ago when he tweeted about possibly cutting his time in Minnesota short. That whole issue ended up being "nothing" and was quickly squashed. The Milwaukee graduate transfer was obviously motivated Saturday to prove himself.
"The best part about it was he took very good shots," Pitino wrote. "Akeem does a lot of little things. Played extremely hard on both ends."
Other top performers in the scrimmage were junior guard Nate Mason (15 points), freshman forward Eric Curry (14 points and eight rebounds), freshman guard Amir Coffey (13 points, seven rebounds, three steals) and Jordan Murphy (10 points).
The Gophers dished out 22 assists as a team, but also committed 19 turnovers. Mason was impressive taking care of the ball, though, with 12 assists to one turnover.
“I have consistently told Nate this offseason that I want him approaching every game like he's the best point guard in the Big Ten,” Pitino wrote. “He certainly looked that way. He was aggressive and showed great leadership.”
Pitino pointed out that he was encouraged about Coffey and sophomore guard Dupree McBrayer combining for 12 deflections Saturday. But he was concerned with his big men getting into foul trouble. Murphy was limited with fouls. And Curry and Lynch would've fouled out.
Overall, Pitino was excited to see his team play someone else. DePaul isn’t one of the Big East’s top teams, but it will probably help the Gophers prepare for the season more than Thursday’s exhibition game against Bemidji State.
“We aren't where we need to be but I am really excited about this team’s potential,” Pitino wrote. “We will play much more inside to out this year than last year. Guys played very hard and with a great spirit. My message to them before the game was to celebrate each other’s success. They certainly did that. …We have to be ready. Louisiana Lafayette and (Texas) Arlington will be very good tests.”
-- Pitino said sophomore walk-on guard Stephon Sharp missed the scrimmage and is day-to-day with a knee injury. Walk-ons Brady Rudrud and Darin Haugh also didn’t play.
-- The Gophers’ second annual Coaches vs. Cancer Tipoff Dinner is Sunday night at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. Pitino said the event raised nearly $60,000 last year for cancer research.