Andre Hollins descended the stairs at Williams Arena and made his way to the locker room. He looked like a guy who had just trekked 10 miles across a desert and finally found water.

"About time," he said in a tone that expressed both relief and joy.

Hollins smiled and shook his head.

He finally found his shot again.

Mired in a horrendous slump, Hollins made his first shot attempt Saturday and rediscovered his touch in scoring a season-high 31 points as the Gophers finally won a Big Ten game, 89-80 against Rutgers.

Hollins looked like a different player Saturday at the Barn. He elevated for jump shots with confidence. He ran off screens with purpose. He played like a senior guard, like the team's leader, like the guy who has produced big games throughout his career.

His 31 points were the second-highest total of his career, behind his 41-point effort against Memphis as a sophomore.

Welcome back, Andre.

"It felt great to get out of a season slump," he said.

Even for a hot-and-cold shooter, that slump was the worst of Hollins' career. He made only 12 of 58 shots in the first five Big Ten games, all losses. He shot 8-for-36 on three-pointers.

He's been colder than January windchills.

Hollins' struggles prompted questions about his toe injury, his career development and whether he was dealing with a bad case of senioritis.

In reality, he's always been a streaky shooter, but this time he endured an unusually long drought. A series of tough losses compounded the problem because this Gophers team has serious limitations on offense, defense and rebounding.

They Gophers need Hollins to make shots.

"I wouldn't say I put a lot of pressure on myself during [the losing streak], but I felt like my poor play had a lot to do with us losing," he said. "Not shooting the ball well. Not contributing offensively like I should have."

Gophers coach Richard Pitino didn't bench Hollins or reduce his playing time because he said he liked other parts of his game. In truth, Pitino's options are limited by a lack of depth, so the team could only hope that Hollins would snap out of his shooting funk eventually.

To his credit, Hollins put in extra work to pull himself out of his slump. He returned to Williams Arena on Friday night to shoot jump shots for close to an hour.

"You just have to buckle down when things aren't going your way," he said.

Pitino went to Hollins right away on the first possession. The Gophers used a double screen to free Hollins for a wide-open three-pointer from the corner.

Swish.

He looked like he unloaded 25 pounds of stress and worry from his shoulders.

"It feels good to see Andre get rolling," center Maurice Walker said.

The surest sign of Hollins' mood came a few minutes later. Rutgers misplayed a screen at the top, creating a wide lane for Hollins to the basket. Rather than take an easy layup, Hollins finished with a dunk, a rarity for him.

"That was the first one in traffic," he noted.

Hollins played aggressively and smart. He made seven of 10 three-pointers, some on open looks and others on the move. Pitino capitalized on Hollins' hot hand by calling plays that featured multiple screens along the baseline to give him scoring chances.

"We were confident that he would get rolling," Pitino said.

Hollins' best moment came midway through the second half as Rutgers reduced the Gophers' lead to 60-55. The Barn grew quiet. Fans were probably bracing for another late collapse.

Hollins gave the old place some life with back-to-back three-pointers in a span of 27 seconds, stretching the lead to 11 points.

That sparked the loudest roar of the day, as if fans were relieved for Hollins, too.

"It energizes everybody," Walker said. "We all expect Dre to make those shots."

He did on Saturday and was able to exhale afterward. Now the question becomes, can Hollins keep his hot hand?

"I've just got to remember this is my last year," he said. "You've got to have fun with it."

It sure helps to see the ball go through the rim.