Read my game story on tonight's 92-79 victory over Nebraska Omaha here.
Having already notched the 1,000th point of his career, Andre Hollins felt the need to further take control, in the locker room at halftime.
Nebraska Omaha had hit a stunning ten three-pointers in the first half to stay neck-in-neck with Minnesota at the half, when the teams were tied at 44.
"I specifically told the team ‘That’s the only thing that’s keeping them in the game, three-point shooting.’" Hollins said. "My emphasis was chase them off the line, make them put the ball on the floor and try to make a play against our bigs, because they only scored four (two-pointers) in the first half. So we wanted to get them to try to make plays instead of just looking for that three-point shot."
Minnesota was able to do that in the second half, holding the Mavericks without a three-pointer and pulling away in the final minutes with incredible performances from Deandre Mathieu (27 points, four assists, two steals and Malik Smith (19 points, three rebounds, two steals). Both point totals were career highs for the players.
For a no-name opponent in the last game before the holiday break, it was a pretty interesting game to watch. Along with the big milestone for Hollins, who reached the mark one game after teammate Austin Hollins did, the junior guard also grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds. It was his first double-double since high school and something he was more excited about than the 1,000 points, even, he said.
Omaha, ranked No. 8 in the nation in tempo, looked pretty good, and kept the Gophers -- who mixed in man-to-man and a 2-3 zone with their press -- on their toes defensively. When forced to go inside, though, the Mavericks didn't have much success. Meanwhile, Elliott Eliason quietly nearly scored a double-double himself, collecting nine rebounds to go with his ten points and a double-take-worthy four steals.
"Yeah, I don’t know how that happened -- I looked at that, and I thought it was a misprint," coach Richard Pitino said before acknowledging that as the last line of defense in the press, he would like his power forwards and centers to get more steals.
Other notes from tonight's 92-79 win.
- In the first half, Omaha scored just two of their 44 points in the paint.
- Andre looked like he was edging out of his shooting slump tonight. He was more aggressive driving to the basket and getting to the foul line, and he finished 6-for-12 from the field. Hollins hasn't made six field goals since Nov. 11 against Coastal Carolina, and he's made more than three just once in the previous five games.
- Mathieu regretted not getting the assist in Austin Hollins' 1000th point, but said he had no chance getting it to Andre, because the junior was being so aggressive off the dribble. "He was in attack-mode tonight, nobody was going to get that assist tonight," Mathieu said. "He was ready for that bucket."