Hey, did you know the actual regular season started on Friday? It’s true. But, judging by the sparse crowd at Williams Arena over the weekend, it appears that most people haven’t quite come to grips with it being basketball season.
The Gophers kicked off the non-con season with games against UMKC and Louisiana-Monroe. The former was the definition of a creampuff, while the latter was intended to provide a little more of a test. The Gophers, however, played pretty decently, and performed well enough to end up 2-0 on the young season. Joey King even had back-to-back 20 point games! While the victories aren’t anything to write home about, it’s notable that with such a young, unproven team, they’re capable of winning two winnable games. I mean, it would have really sucked if they lost the season opener to a terrible WAC team.
The Gophers took down UMKC pretty handily, though it wasn’t until much later in the game that they really took off. In fact, Minnesota was down 17-8 as late as 12 minutes into the first half. They couldn’t hit a shot and it was pretty uncomfortable. Some bench guy from UMKC couldn’t miss and ended up scoring 25 points on 7-10 three pointers. Seriously, the Kangaroos made 12 of 24 threes and still only shot 32 percent from the field. It was one of those games. Still, Joey King led the team with 22 points, while Nate Mason chipped in 11 with 7 assists. Freshman Kevin Dorsey had 7 points, 6 assists and 7 turnovers. Talk about filling the stat sheet.
Sunday’s game against ULM was a little more of a challenge. The Warhawks are from the Sun Belt and are actually expected to make noise in the conference. They won 24 games last year and returned basically their entire team. So it was one of those trap games where a veteran low-major can sneak up on you. The Gophers handled them for most of the game, leading by as many as 15, but gave away the lead and ended up trailing 51-50 with 6 minutes left. It was an interesting test early in the season for a super young team, and you may have expected them to go into a shell after giving up such a big lead. But they actually battled back, outscoring ULM 17-5 in the final 6 minutes. You don’t like to see giant leads given up, but it was a nice consolation seeing them not panic and take the game back over. Dorsey, Mason and King all scored in double digits.
Water cooler talking points:
- He didn’t fill up the stat sheet, but Jordan Murphy is one of the best-looking guys on the team so far, and is certainly the most impactful freshman. He’s shown the ability to play both inside and out, and flashed a decent low-post game for a 6’6″ dude.
- Bakary Konate and Gaston Diedhiou have been absolute non-factors so far. Diedhiou barely touches the ball, and Konate just hasn’t done much of anything. Pitino has gone small and it’s been effective, which has reduced the need for two giant dudes. Konate, though, has done a good job of staying out of foul trouble, which was a big sticking point last year.
- Kevin Dorsey is a lot of fun to watch, and could be the most exciting player on the team once he starts hanging onto the ball. He’s has a bit of Deandre Mathieu in him, where he plays too fast for his own good. Chalk it up to nerves for now, but he’ll be an impact player once he gets his act together.
- Carlos Morris still has a ways to go in the “take good shots” department. He’s still making awful choices in transition and you just wonder what’s going through his head at any given moment. Perhaps Pitino is getting wise to him — he was on the bench during crunch time in the ULM game.
- Win or lose, the Gophers will basically have the coolest hair on the court in any given game. Mason and Dorsey have some badass cuts. Reggie Lynch has an asterisk since he’s technically sitting out for transferring, but his hair is great as well.
The Gophers face Temple in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Thursday.