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Gophers take charge early in victory

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO
  • Star Tribune
  • December 4, 2012 - 10:35 PM

When he's got it, he's got it.

The Gophers didn't need every point of Andre Hollins' explosion Tuesday night like they did in his last star showing, when he made three free throws in the final second of a three-point victory against Stanford in the Bahamas. But the sophomore's stellar first-half performance helped set the tone early in the No. 14 Gophers' 88-64 rout of South Dakota State at Williams Arena.

It was apparent quickly that the guard was feeling it. Hollins hit his first five shots from the field, the first four of which were three-pointers, and with the Gophers hitting a groove, the sophomore hit three more in a 2 minute, 31-second span.

Hollins' six three-pointers and one layup gave him 20 points with 1:19 remaining in the first half, when he left, grinning, to emphatic applause from the announced crowd of 10,213.

With South Dakota State playing without injured point guard Nate Wolters (ankle), the Gophers dictated their up-tempo pace midway through the first half and held the Jackrabbits to 38.6 percent shooting on the other end.

While Rodney Williams was all but absent offensively for the first time this season, the Gophers got big games from Austin Hollins (17 points, five assists) and Joe Coleman (15 points, seven rebounds) in addition to Andre Hollins.

After struggling to create separation early and leading only 15-10 after eight minutes, the Gophers' inside play started to pick up, getting baskets from Andre Ingram and Trevor Mbakwe. As the Gophers padded a small lead, SDSU's discipline started to break down and the Gophers snatched every miss for a fast break and built a 48-24 halftime advantage.

After the break, Hollins -- more tightly guarded -- cooled off substantially and finished with 22 points. But perhaps just as notable was that while the sophomore had only two assists, he also had no turnovers, an area that has given him problems in the past.

The point guard finished with 79 turnovers a year ago, second most on the team, and Hollins again had the second most (behind Coleman) coming into Tuesday's game.

But Hollins has shown significant improvement in a lot of areas this season - starting with an assists-to-turnovers ratio of 1.5-to-1.

The offensive production Hollins has carried over from the end of last season has been one of the reasons there has been less pressure on Williams to score. Williams ended an 18-game double-digit scoring streak Tuesday, finishing with only two points.

And Hollins' defense has improved to the degree that had Wolters started, the Memphis native was being considered as a possibility to guard the dynamic player.

The matchup between the Gophers and SDSU had been anticipated from the start of the season as a showcase for Wolters, considered one of the top point guards in the country. Unfortunately, that display never happened, after Wolters turned his right ankle in practice Monday and the team made the decision to keep him out at the last minute.

The Jackrabbits also played without guard Taevaunn Prince, who with Wolters' mass production combined for nearly 37 percent of the team's scoring. Without the pair, SDSU was limited to a seven-man rotation and looked worn out early.

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