Ask anyone that is around the team on a regular basis and they will say that Austin Hollins is a major part of the Gophers’ operation.
But while the junior is still the Gophers’ best defensive player on the floor, in terms of offensive production, Minnesota has been winning in spite of Hollins lately, not because of him.
In the last two games, Hollins has shot just 27 percent from the field while going 0-for-8 from 3-point range. The Gophers have won, but they’ve had to get their scoring from elsewhere.
And the slump extends far past that. In the last seven games, Hollins has shot just 34.8 percent from the field while making just 4 of 34 3-point attempts (good for 11.7 percent) from that range.
Considering that Hollins is one of the first guys in the gym before practice, and one of the last to leave, the Gophers aren’t concerned about the shooting lapse, believing that it will come in it’s time.
“Every shooter goes through bad streaks,” assistant coach Vince Taylor said. “I told him, coach told him, Ray Allen one game went 0-for-15. He’s the best shooter in the NBA. [Austin has] good mechanics and everything else. We feel he’s going to be fine. And the other bottom line is we want Austin out there because he’s our best defensive player. We have confidence in him. We know what he can do.”
At some point, a slump like this often gets mental, with a player often forcing bad shots or being nervous to shoot at all. But Hollins has stayed poised through it, Taylor said.
“He’s had open looks against Indiana – Austin and Andre had open looks and they just missed them,” Taylor said. “And we still won. I tell you what, it’s icing on the cake. When he starts hitting shots and we keep playing the way we’re playing at, that will be icing on the cake.”
In the meantime, Austin Hollins is out there for everything else he provides: the solid defense and his ball handling – in the last three games, Hollins has had just three turnovers to 11 assists. Still, Hollins is one of the best shooters on this team, and eventually, the Gophers will need the junior to regain his shot if they are to make a run in the tournament.
Other team notes:
- Taylor conducted today’s media teleconference because coach Tubby Smith is home sick. The head coach – who has strep throat-like symptoms – conducted the Gophers’ 6 am practice on Monday and then went home. He should most likely be good to go for tomorrow’s practice and travel, an assistant coach said.
- Julian Welch will probably be getting “more and more minutes” after the guard’s 10-point, 7-assist, 0-turnover performance on Saturday, Taylor said. The Gophers are trying to use Andre Hollins off the ball more and so will be relying more heavily on either Welch or Maverick Ahanmisi (or both). “Julian’s playing like he was playing last year and that’s the type of Julian we know he can be,” Taylor said.
- Elliott Eliason will be returning home while playing very well when the Gophers head to Nebraska this week. The redshirt sophomore didn’t score on Saturday, but he added six rebounds and two blocks. Against Indiana, the backup center had seven critical points and four rebounds. “Elliott has been invaluable,” Taylor said. “You always say you can’t teach 7-foot. The whole year, when he comes in, he gives us energy, he takes up space under there, he’s an excellent passer … Especially against Indiana, he came in against the zone and really gave us a boost when Trevor got into foul trouble.”
- Trevor Mbakwe was named Big Ten Player of the Week -- his first weekly honor this year and only the second of his career. Mbakwe scored 34 points and added 25 rebounds in two games against No. 1 Indiana and Penn State. Mbakwe shot 73.7 percent from the field for the week.