You really never know what you’re going to get from this team.
They looked good around halftime, awful near the end of the regulation and then great in overtime.
Rodney Williams, Ralph Sampson III and Julian Welch combined to score just 13 points, but by way of a clutch game from Austin Hollins, a huge effort from the bench and a miracle play that enabled overtime, the Gophers got one of their most meaningful wins of the season.
They rebounded from a bad loss at Michigan State, redeemed themselves in a dramatic rematch and notched their fourth win in five games.
Wow. I was gnawing the end off my pen – and of course erasing everything I’d already written for the Star Tribune’s first edition.
Some quick notes on tonight’s game:
· With five second left on the clock, the Gophers were down by three and Austin Hollins chose to … um, lay it up? He ended up getting fouled – something of a questionable call – and it looked great, but in the moment, it was a baffling decision, particularly since Hollins is the Gophers’ best three-point shooter. Later, he said he saw a hole and made a snap decision. Could have turned out so bad, but instead he looks like a genius. Sort of.
· The Gophers’ starters looked really sluggish, especially in the first half, but the bench’s performance was huge. At halftime, the bench was responsible for 20 of the Gophers’ 30 points and Chip Armelin tied a career-high with 14 points. He was so key tonight.
· Ironically, in the first Minnesota-Illinois game this season, Meyers Leonard was the one who hit the free throws at the end of regulation to tie the score (at 64, just like tonight) and send the game to overtime. Tonight, he was on the other end, fouling Hollins to send the game to OT. The biggest part about that was that it was his fifth foul, meaning the Gophers got to play all of overtime sans Leonard.
· Brandon Paul showed just how he can go off tonight, catching fire late in the second half and almost single-handedly snatching the momentum from the Gophers. Yikes.
· This game will likely be very big for Andre Hollins’ confidence. He hasn’t done much all season, and hadn’t scored as many as six points since the first Illinois game. Tonight he scored six just in overtime, and finished with 12. He was driving with aggressiveness, taking guys off the dribble and was clutch with free throws. It was very encouraging to see from the freshman.