Gopher Coaches Show: Richard Pitino talks tough Big Ten stretch

The University of Minnesota men’s basketball team is nearly halfway through its Big Ten schedule, and the Gophers just finished the toughest nine-game stretch in the history of the program.

Coach Richard Pitino joined this week’s Gopher Coaches Show with Fox 9’s Hobie Artigue and KFAN Gopher analyst Justin Gaard. Minnesota’s game against Michigan was its ninth straight against a top 25 opponent, a stretch that’s never been done in the history of Gophers’ basketball. It hasn’t been done in college basketball since St. John’s played seven straight ranked opponents in 2011.

The stretch ended with one of Minnesota’s most impressive performances of the season, a 75-57 win over previously undefeated Michigan. Liam Robbins earned National Player of the Week honors after scoring 22 points, grabbing eight rebounds, blocking two shots and containing Wolverines’ star Hunter Dickinson.

The Gophers went 5-4 over the stretch of nine straight ranked opponents. Their wins came against St. Louis, Michigan State, Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan. After their win over the Wolverines, Minnesota moved up six spots to No. 17 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll. They’re also at No. 26 in the NCAA’s NET rankings.

"We’ve had really good moments. Five of those wins are against teams I believe will play in the NCAA Tournament. When we’re physically and mentally engaged, we can beat anybody," Pitino said.

The Gophers are 11-0 at Williams Arena this season, and 0-4 on the road.

Minnesota was scheduled to play at Nebraska Wednesday night, but the Cornhuskers are on pause with six players and coach Fred Hoiberg among those in the program dealing with COVID-19 issues. The Gophers host Maryland Saturday afternoon.

Pitino and the crew also talked about forward Eric Curry’s comeback from several knee injuries to make significant contributions through 15 games this season. He’s played in all 15 games, started twice and is averaging 3.8 points and two rebounds per game.

Watch the video for the full Gopher Coaches Show with Richard Pitino!