The Gophers played probably their best game on Wednesday vs. Wisconsin with their scoring leader and one of their best all-around players sitting on the bench.
Now, they will have to forge the immediate road ahead without him as well.
Coach Richard Pitino said on Saturday that Andre Hollins "definitely" will not play against Nebraska on Sunday, and the star guard is "very much questionable" for the Gophers' next matchup, against Northwestern at home on Feb. 1.
"Severe, severe ankle injury -- probably a lot worse than we thought it would be and it's just too hard to predict when he'll be back," Pitino said. "So we're just taking it day-by-day. It's not pretty right now, so we're assuming that he's not going to play for the next two games at least."
With no timetable for his return, the Gophers' lineup changes significantly. Not only are they short the 16.2 points Hollins was averaging coming into the Wisconsin game, but Minnesota's depth in the backcourt -- one of its biggest strengths -- takes a hit as well.
Malik Smith will take a much bigger role as a starter, and Maverick Ahanmisi likely will as well. The latter will have to function as the backup point guard when DeAndre Mathieu is out, and Pitino will have to find another consistent backup shooting guard -- potentially Daquein McNeil, who has shown plenty of promise, but remains very young.
Pitino also pointed out that the Gophers will sorely miss Hollins' tendency to get to the line. The Memphis native is very good at getting fouled, and has had 114 trips to the line already this season, with Mathieu getting the next most, but significantly behind, with 67 stops at the stripe.
"It's going to be tough for us," Mo Walker said. "He's our leading scorer so we're going to have to have everybody step up, everybody is going to have to play a little bit bigger of a role, just to make up for that loss."
Hollins has never sprained that ankle -- his left -- before, which makes the injury tougher to rehabilitate from. Pitino said he was encouraged by Hollins' spirit, though, as the news that he could be out for some substantial time is hitting him.
On Friday, Hollins sat on the sideline, getting a treatment while the team prepared for Nebraska, but the guard was encouraging his teammates the way he usually does.
"Very positive, leading," Pitino said. "A lot of guys will sit on the side and won't say a word. You could hear him a lot during practice, which was nice to see. I'm sure if you asked him, he'd say he'll be back sooner than later. But you've got to be smart with it. It was a really, really bad injury."