PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS - A kid from Memphis was the star of the show Friday, lighting up the scoreboard and inspiring dropped jaws.
But unfortunately for the 19th-ranked University of Memphis, this kid left Tennessee for Minnesota last year, and on Friday, Andre Hollins dramatically outdid a bunch of more highly recruited former high school and AAU teammates and carried the Gophers to their first signature victory of the season.
Hollins scored a dazzling 41 points in an 84-75 victory at the Battle 4 Atlantis, the most points any Gophers player has scored since Ollie Shannon had a school-record-tying 42 against Wisconsin in 1971.
"He put on a great display," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said of the 6-1 point guard from White Station High School. "I don't think I've ever had another young man put on a display like that, shooting. So I'm very impressed with the way he played today, and thank goodness he had because we needed every point."
There were no shortage of complimentary adjectives in the postgame news conference after the sophomore went 5-for-5 from three-point range, hit 12 of 13 shots from the free-throw line and was just as huge for the Gophers (5-1) down the stretch as he was in a 24-point first half.
The Gophers started slowly, but as they started to find holes in the Memphis defense, they were able to get a flurry of back-door cuts and points from the foul line, stringing together a 14-3 run to go up 23-17. When the Tigers (2-2) woke up and reclaimed the lead, Hollins then took over.
With Memphis up 38-37, Hollins singlehandedly picked up the intensity, scoring 10 consecutive points. He drained a pair of three-pointers and followed up with a 15-foot jumper and a pair of free throws, boosting the Gophers to a 47-42 lead at the half.
"It was pretty much, get Dre the ball and see what happens," forward Rodney Williams said. "Today he had the hot hand. We kept giving it to him. We had a lot of guys in foul trouble and Dre definitely stepped up."
Hollins' fifth three-pointer gave the Gophers a 63-55 lead with 11:44 to go, but their inability to box out enabled Memphis to rally again. The Tigers scored 13 second-chance points off 15 offensive rebounds in the second half and briefly reclaimed a 68-67 lead before the Gophers scored the next six points, with Hollins finding Williams open for a baseline jumper for a 73-68 lead.
Memphis was still within 73-70 with 2:29 to go, but Hollins, no worse for the wear, again played the hero, getting to the line eight times in the final 96 seconds and making seven.
It was only fitting, then, that when Williams stole the ball from Geron Johnson with 13 seconds remaining, he flipped the ball to Hollins, who took it down to the other end for a dunk and a 41-point day.
With his trademark ear-to-ear grin, Hollins hung from the rim for a couple of extra seconds and then stared down the cheering crowd after he came down.
"I was just focused for the day," said Hollins, who finished 12-for-16 from the floor. "It was definitely bragging rights for me and Austin [Hollins, also a Memphis native]. We had to redeem ourselves for coming out and losing like that to Duke. We knew we're a better team than that."
With Andre Hollins at the helm, the Gophers looked it, resembling a totally different team than in Thursday's 89-71 loss to No. 5 Duke -- with the exception of 17 turnovers.
And Hollins resembled a totally different player than the five starters on Tigers coach Josh Pastner's team. Memphis point guard Joe Jackson -- Hollins' high school teammate and a player recruited much more intensely -- played only seven minutes after struggling early, sitting out the entire second half and finishing with two points.
"We recruited him, we offered him a scholarship -- we recruited him hard," Pastner said of Hollins. "He just didn't want to come, he felt we were loaded on the guard spot. It wasn't one of those things where we chose someone over him or anything like that."