Before the Gophers faced South Dakota State on Tuesday night, senior Austin Hollins approached his close friend, junior Andre Hollins.
Both players were within near spitting distance of 1,000 career points, although the latter — who was averaging 3.4 points more than Austin — was a hair closer.
“He needed 17, and I think I needed 13,” Andre Hollins said. “And he was like ‘Dre, you’ve got to wait on me, you’ve got to wait on me if I don’t get it.’ ”
Instead, as the seconds ticked away, it was Austin waiting on Andre. Having played the game of his career, Austin went ahead into the history books anyway, finding the milestone on a layup with 3 minutes, 16 seconds to go in the eventual 75-59 victory over South Dakota State.
Less than two minutes later, he was taken out to an appreciative ovation, the meager but excited Williams Arena crowd of 11,349 rising for the second time to celebrate the accomplishment and displaying signs that read “HOLLINSANITY.”
His performance — 20 points, a career-high 14-rebounds, three assists and zero turnovers — perhaps put an exclamation point on what those watching the Gophers closely are quickly starting to learn: Austin Hollins is not lagging behind any player on this team, and he’s waiting for no one.
“I don’t think Austin Hollins gets enough respect,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “When you talk about the face of the program, you say it’s Andre Hollins. Well I think we’ve got two faces, and it’s Andre and Austin Hollins. I think both of those guys — we’re going to go as far as they take us. But Austin is a tremendous player, and he’s only getting better.”
On a night where Pitino’s legendary father, Louisville coach Rick Pitino, was in the Barn, the Gophers needed every flicker of the spark that Hollins brought.
With 6:23 left in the first half, the Jackrabbits had tied Minnesota at 23 after the Gophers — who made four of 16 shots from three-point range in the first half — got off to a second consecutive sluggish start. But Austin Hollins brought the fire. The 6-4 guard scored eight points in the final 7:02 while living on the boards. By halftime, he’d already notched a double-double, reeling in 11 rebounds to go with 11 points — the last two coming on a short jumper to end the Gophers’ last possession of the half, in which he grabbed three rebounds. Overall, Minnesota outrebounded South Dakota State 40-30, and Elliott Eliason quietly had a double-double of his own, finishing with 10 points and 12 rebounds.
“I definitely couldn’t have predicted that,” said Austin Hollins of his new rebounding proficiency, averaging 7.4 rebounds per game. “But I put in a lot of work in the offseason, and it’s really starting to pay off and I can really see the changes.”
Afterward, the senior said the elder Pitino – who spoke to the team in the locker room after the victory — congratulated Austin on the milestone.
As the seconds ticked away, though, and Andre was getting close, Andre was still a few steps away.
“I actually told Andre, I said I think you need five more,” Austin said. “Shoot a three or something, get a layup. I was just joking around with him. But it would have been cool to see him get 1,000 points, but he’ll have his own night for that. That will be a great milestone for him as well.”