WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – By the end of it, the vintage Andre Hollins was on display.
Three-pointers seemed as simple as a touch. Again and again, they fell. Hollins whipped around and cocked his head at the fans in black and gold, who were quickly deflating. The signature toothy grin was back, and it stretched from ear-to-ear.
“Sometimes the basket is like the ocean,” the senior shooting guard said later, the smile pervasive. “Anything you throw up goes in.”
The start of the second half Tuesday — when the Gophers were in great need of a spark — was one of those times.
On the last outing of Minnesota’s three-game road stretch, Hollins ignored two previous subpar showings with a backbreaking 27-point performance at Wake Forest, helping the Gophers to overcome an ugly first half and claim their first true road victory of the season, 84-69 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
After Minnesota limped out of the first half — Wake Forest’s 9-0 run in the final 2:58 trimmed the lead to one point — Hollins opened the second by drilling two three-pointers in the first 1:01, and the Gophers quickly ignited a 13-3 run to go up 48-34.
Unlike the first half, in which Minnesota built leads of 13-4 and 32-22 but watched Wake Forest climb back each time, the Gophers would hold onto this advantage.
“It definitely energizes us,” small forward Carlos Morris said. “We kind of let teams get back in — every time we go up 10 points we let teams get back in in the second half, and he just kept it going, kept it going. So he had the team excited.”
Hollins was far from finished. The Memphis native totaled 27 points and seven three-pointers in all, including five in the second half, to lead an air offense by the Gophers, who hit 12 shots from behind the arc overall.
Morris said Hollins isn’t the type to let a few slow offensive games affect him — or let any of his teammates see that, anyway. The senior had 17 points in games against St. John’s and Georgia, but also committed 12 turnovers.
“I don’t know what he’s doing at home, but he isn’t going to bring that in the gym,” Morris said of any frustration. “He’s a great leader.”
Morris added 15 points and eight steals to help offset his six turnovers, and Joey King contributed 14 points on four three-pointers.
The Gophers led just 32-31 at the break after allowing Cody Miller-McIntrye to cover the court for an uncontested layup just before the buzzer.
It was a play that characterized much of the first 20 minutes — a sloppy half in which both teams had 11 turnovers and shot less than 42 percent from the field.
“We had to withstand their punches,” Hollins said. “They made a run, they’re at home, we have to realize we’re up by one on the road — in any environment on the road it’s pretty tough.”
The Gophers finished with 20 turnovers overall and were forced to throw out some interesting lineups — Morris was playing power forward at one point — due to foul trouble after sending Wake Forest to the line 28 times in the second half.
But a 27-point performance from Hollins can hide many flaws.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Morris said. “Andre is a great player. I practice against him every day.
‘‘ … He’s a big-time scorer man, that’s what he does. It’s definitely good to see him back.”