Gophers men’s basketball team’s final nonconference foe no slouch

Richard Pitino quoted Mike Tyson on Saturday. “Everybody has a plan,” he said, “until they get punched in the mouth.”
The Gophers men’s basketball coach didn’t like how his team responded to Illinois hitting them early and ended up on the mat in a 92-65 blowout loss to open Big Ten Conference play on Tuesday.
“We got obliterated on the glass,” said Pitino, whose team was out-rebounded by 18. “We saw just how far away we are from a physicality standpoint and being able to compete with a team like Illinois.”
The Gophers’ start to conference play comprises games against the four teams picked to finish atop the league, but before they resume that gauntlet, they play their seventh and final nonconference game on Sunday night. It’s no slouch either.
St. Louis is 6-0 with wins over N.C. State and LSU. They are picked to finish second in the Atlantic 10 conference. They have talent, experience and depth. Pitino said they should be ranked in the Top 25.
“This is an absolute huge challenge for us,” Pitino said. “After us, they go into league play, and no disrespect to their league, they are probably going to be top three, top four. They are going to have a lot of wins. So, it’s a good opportunity for a quality win for our guys. I know they are looking forward to it.”
Minnesota needs Liam Robbins to stay on the court. The big man fouled out against the Illini, allowing Kofi Cockburn to land haymaker after haymaker. The U also needs wing Both Gach to bounce back from his 0-for-9 shooting game in Champaign, Ill.
Pitino pointed out how St. Louis had two players, Hasahn French and Jordan Goodwin, who combined to out-rebound the entire N.C. State team on Thursday.
Rebounding isn’t a new problem for the Gophers, and they’ve addressed it multiple times in practice. “If we don’t come in with that hard work and effort and aggression, it’s going to be tough,” forward Brandon Johnson said.
Robbins knows the quality of teams in the A10. Last year, his Drake team lost to future NBA lottery pick Obi Toppin and highly ranked Dayton.
“You could maybe consider them a mid-major conference, but they are a high-major in my opinion,” Robbins said. “They are vary talented.”
The Gophers will try to hit them in the mouth first.
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