Scoggins: Tubby's happy feet, Gophers victory are fruits of playing loose

  • Article by: CHIP SCOGGINS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 15, 2013 - 10:40 PM

 More important than surviving clunk-fest with Badgers was Andre Hollins' tone-setting.

A video of Tubby Smith shaking his booty went viral Friday morning. That's a sentence one doesn't type very often.

A Gophers staff member captured the wild scene in the locker room after Smith's team survived a bricklaying contest against Wisconsin, 58-53 in overtime, in what felt like one of those pivotal moments in a season. Afterward, Smith gathered his team, Ke$ha came over the speakers and Tubby lost himself in the moment like a guy in the middle of a dance club, minus the lower lip bite.

He pumped his fist in the air and shimmied side to side. At one point, senior Trevor Mbakwe grabbed Smith, threw him over his shoulder in a fireman's carry and bobbed up and down. Their celebration looked like a basketball bachelor party, an opportunity for the Gophers to relax, cut loose and just enjoy themselves.

It also proved again that winning serves as a powerful antidote to frustration and general malaise that fester in bad times.

We'll soon find out whether what happened inside the Barn on Thursday sparks a revival that halts their free fall, or if it's just a one-game relief against a cockeyed-shooting Wisconsin team that committed a brain-cramp turnover in the final 30 seconds of regulation.

The most encouraging development for the Gophers, though, was the re-emergence of sophomore point guard Andre Hollins as their leader, a guy who will take and make clutch shots and not turn the ball over.

Hollins finished with a game-high 21 points, five rebounds and three assists. He also played 43 minutes without committing a turnover.

Hollins remains the key to this team's ability to fulfill its promise because the Gophers follow his lead. He is their most important player and 'X' factor, not Mbakwe or Rodney Williams or Austin Hollins.

The Gophers are at their best when Andre Hollins is at his, and whatever this team accomplishes over the next month will depend largely on his play. That statement holds true for most teams and their point guard, of course. But Hollins is a natural shooting guard being asked to run an offense as the primary ball handler while also actively looking to score. Some games he's better at that than others.

That push-pull mindset occasionally causes him to be indecisive with the ball, which results in careless turnovers. But he puts pressure on defenses when he's attacking and his shots are falling. He's their leading scorer and most reliable option on offense who has shown on multiple occasions that he's capable of carrying his team.

Like the rest of his teammates, Hollins' game has experienced ebbs and flows recently. Smith invited Hollins to lunch Wednesday to talk about how the offense can function more effectively. The coach and point guard spent 45 minutes at a campus sandwich shop going over Hollins' role, how he can make his teammates better and the need for him to remain aggressive at all times. They never had done that outside of the basketball offices.

"It was a good talk," Hollins said. "I like that he can trust me with telling me what he wants done. It gives me confidence. He let me know that I'm kind of a coach out there on the floor. I want to show him that he can have faith in me."

The Gophers need Hollins to pressure the ball defensively and push the pace on offense. They're a different team when they don't get bogged down in their half-court offense. That starts with Hollins' ability to handle the ball, make shots and play with confidence.

"I have the ball in my hands most of the time and I'm guarding the ball the most," he said. "My teammates are looking at that and they feed off it. I need to bring energy every night so my teammates can feed off that."

Smith noted after Thursday's game that his team's slump created a toxic environment. He described it as the "sky was falling around here." Sift through all the psychobabble and the Gophers looked tighter than yoga pants. They seemed concerned about making a mistake or missing a shot or getting screamed at by Smith.

Smith told his team before the game to relax and just play. He said he didn't care if they had 50 turnovers as long as they won, though he probably hoped his players didn't take him literally. Hollins understood the message as much as anyone.

"We've tried so hard not to mess up that we end up messing up," he said. "He just wanted us to play freely and loose."

Their performance wasn't the prettiest, but they made enough plays to win and finally were able to breathe again.

And then they danced to Ke$ha. Obviously.

Chip Scoggins • ascoggins@startribune.com

  • GOPHERS BASKETBALL

    Up next: 1 p.m. Sunday at Iowa • TV: BTN (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Atlanta 7 FINAL
Pittsburgh 5
Miami 5 FINAL
St. Louis 3
Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 4 FINAL
Detroit - WP: J. Nathan 6
Minnesota 4 FINAL
Boston 5
NY Yankees 5 FINAL
Tampa Bay 6
Philadelphia 1 FINAL
Toronto 4
Cincinnati 13 FINAL
Cleveland 2
Los Angeles 9 FINAL
Chicago WSox 6
Kansas City 3 FINAL
Seattle 0
Seattle 1 FINAL
Milwaukee 15
San Diego 3 FINAL
Arizona 3
NY Mets 8 FINAL
Washington 3
LA Angels 8 FINAL
Chicago Cubs 4
Colorado 3 FINAL
Texas 6
Oakland 6 FINAL
San Francisco 4
Indiana 107 FINAL
Milwaukee 111
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Carolina 5
New Jersey 2 FINAL(OT)
Washington 3
Los Angeles 3 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 4 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL(OT)
Boston 2
Nashville 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 2
San Jose 6 FINAL
Detroit 4
NY Rangers 5 FINAL
Ottawa 1
Florida 4 FINAL
Toronto 1
Montreal 2 FINAL
Winnipeg 5
Colorado 4 FINAL
Vancouver 1
Wichita State 70 FINAL
Notre Dame 81
North Carolina 72 FINAL
Wisconsin 79
Evansville 89 FINAL
Louisiana 82
West Virginia 39 FINAL
Kentucky 78
Xavier 60 FINAL
Arizona 68
St Johns 55 FINAL
Villanova 63
NC State 79 FINAL
Temple 80
Missouri 55 FINAL
Michigan 65
Oral Roberts 64 FINAL
Louisiana 65
Duquesne 39 FINAL
West Virginia 60
Ole Miss 70 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 82
Northern Colorado 60 FINAL
UCLA 74
St Marys-CA 77 FINAL
Sacramento St 69

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Will Major League Soccer be successful in Minnesota?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close