Austin Hollins, Gophers finish off Penn State with flourish

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 10, 2014 - 11:44 AM

Austin Hollins was honored on Senior Day, then delivered a strong performance to squash Penn State.

view larger photos

  

Austin Hollins took the microphone at midcourt, his face still glistening with sweat, and took a moment to smile.

After long-endured struggles during the Big Ten schedule this season, it was hard to imagine a finer finish. The senior guard took off offensively in the past three games and helped boost the Gophers to a strong regular-season finale victory over Penn State 81-63 on Sunday.

With the momentum of two victories in three games at their backs — ones marked by notable improvement — the Gophers head to the Big Ten tournament percolating with confidence.

“This may be our last game in the Barn,” Hollins said to the jubilant Williams Arena crowd of 12,775. “But we don’t want to stop here. We’ve got big goals for the future.”

The victory made postseason dreams a little more possible, giving the Gophers a golden opportunity at the Big Ten tournament, which opens Thursday in Indianapolis with Minnesota (19-12, 8-10 Big Ten) getting a rematch with Penn State (15-16, 6-12).

“We know it’s going to be a tough tournament, but it’s anybody’s tournament because our league is so so tough,” Gophers point guard DeAndre Mathieu said. “So it’s good to get the offense going and not go in on a sluggish note.”

In the past three games, the Gophers offense has been ticking along nicely. After a week off, the Gophers picked up where they left off, compiling their fourth 80-point game of the Big Ten schedule with five players scoring in double figures.

Fittingly, Hollins took the lead. After being honored before the regular-season finale — along with fellow seniors Maverick Ahanmisi, Malik Smith and Oto Osenieks — he continued the offensive surge that has marked his past three games, compiling the most points during that time (57) as any three-game stretch in his career.

“It felt good,” said Hollins, who called his last game at the Barn “bittersweet.”

“I think just being persistent and not giving up when things weren’t going well was really what helped me. You’ve just got to keep working hard and eventually it will pay off, you just don’t know when.”

Less than two minutes in, the Hollins-led rout had begun.

Hollins, who finished with 14 points and three steals, hit a two-point jump shot to ignite a 20-3 start over the Nittany Lions. The Gophers turned the ball over only five times (12 overall) and shot nearly 60 percent in the first half to hold a 14-point lead (38-24) at the break.

Penn State steadily chipped away at the mountainous deficit in the second half, going on a 17-1 run on the back of D.J. Newbill (a game-high 24 points) to come within nine with 8:37 to go, but the Gophers were able to dam the flood.

Center Mo Walker ensured Hollins’ early dominance would stay relevant, controlling the paint and dipping and dodging his way to 16 points, nine of them in the second half. Mathieu (16 points, six assists) continued his team’s night-long charge, getting to the rim for easy scores. Andre Hollins (13 points) converted six of six shots from the free-throw line. And Ahanmisi put a lid on the scoring party after making three of six three-pointers, tying a career high with 13 points.

“They made a nice run — I thought we calmed ourselves own a little bit and handled it,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said. “So hopefully we’ve grown as a team.”

Given the strength of the victory, the Gophers probably feel fortunate to face Penn State again this week. One more win in Indianapolis would potentially ease the Gophers back on the right side of the NCAA tournament bubble. By beating the Nittany Lions again, they would play second-seeded Wisconsin in the second round.

“It’s tough to beat a team three times in a row,” Walker said. “They’re going to scout us a little better, so we’ve just got to take this week and get even better offensively and defensively and prepare for the changes they might make.”

  • gophers 81, penn state 63 Up next: 5:30 p.m. Thursday vs. Penn State in Big Ten tournament, Indianapolis • TV: ESPN2 (1500-AM)

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Baltimore - LP: K. Gausman 1 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - WP: J. Arrieta 4
Houston - WP: T. Sipp 5 FINAL
Cleveland - LP: C. Allen 1
San Francisco - WP: T. Hudson 10 FINAL
Washington - LP: D. Fister 3
St. Louis - LP: A. Wainwright 4 FINAL
Philadelphia - WP: K. Kendrick 5
Chicago WSox - LP: D. Webb 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson 4
Tampa Bay - WP: D. Smyly 8 FINAL
Toronto - LP: M. Stroman 0
Atlanta - WP: D. Hale 3 FINAL
Cincinnati - LP: M. Parra 1
Seattle - WP: D. Leone 5 FINAL
Boston - LP: K. Uehara 3
Kansas City - WP: Y. Ventura 6 FINAL
Texas - LP: C. Lewis 3
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Locke 8 FINAL
Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo 3
Detroit - LP: R. Ray 6 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: R. Pressly 20
Miami - WP: H. Alvarez 13 FINAL
Colorado - LP: F. Morales 5
San Diego - LP: O. Despaigne 1 FINAL
Arizona - WP: J. Collmenter 5
LA Angels - LP: J. Grilli 3 FINAL
Oakland - WP: S. Gray 5
NY Mets - LP: J. Niese 2 FINAL
Los Angeles - WP: D. Haren 6
Carolina 7 FINAL
New England 30
NY Giants 35 FINAL
NY Jets 24
Jacksonville 12 FINAL
Detroit 13
Oakland 21 FINAL
Green Bay 31
Chicago 6 FINAL
Seattle 34
Tampa Bay 3:30 PM
Buffalo
Tennessee 6:00 PM
Atlanta
Dallas 6:00 PM
Miami
Washington 6:30 PM
Baltimore
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Indianapolis
Minnesota 7:00 PM
Kansas City
St. Louis 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Houston 8:00 PM
Denver
San Diego 8/24/14 3:00 PM
San Francisco
Cincinnati 8/24/14 7:00 PM
Arizona
Atlanta 8/28/14 5:00 PM
Jacksonville
Detroit 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Indianapolis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Kansas City 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Green Bay
NY Jets 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Philadelphia
St. Louis 8/28/14 6:00 PM
Miami
Carolina 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Pittsburgh
New England 8/28/14 6:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 8/28/14 6:30 PM
Tampa Bay
Baltimore 8/28/14 7:00 PM
New Orleans
Chicago 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Cleveland
Denver 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Dallas
Minnesota 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tennessee
San Francisco 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 8/28/14 9:00 PM
San Diego
Seattle 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Oakland
(21) Texas A&M 8/28/14 5:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Wake Forest 8/28/14 6:00 PM
ULM
Boise State 8/28/14 7:00 PM
(18) Ole Miss
Tulane 8/28/14 7:00 PM
Tulsa
Temple 8/28/14 8:15 PM
Vanderbilt
Rutgers 8/28/14 9:00 PM
Washington St
Weber State 8/28/14 9:30 PM
(19) Arizona State
BYU 8/29/14 6:00 PM
Connecticut
(6) Jacksonville St 8/29/14 6:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Bowling Green 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Western Ky
TX-San Antonio 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Houston
Colorado State 8/29/14 8:00 PM
Colorado
UNLV 8/29/14 9:30 PM
Arizona
UCF 8/30/14 7:30 AM
Penn State
Real Salt Lake 1 FINAL
FC Dallas 2
Montreal 16 FINAL
Winnipeg 24
Toronto 3:00 PM
Edmonton
Calgary 8/24/14 2:00 PM
Ottawa
Saskatchewan 8/24/14 6:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 8/29/14 6:30 PM
Montreal
Winnipeg 8/31/14 2:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Chicago 80 FINAL
Atlanta 77
Los Angeles 72 FINAL
Phoenix 75

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: How closely will you follow the Lynx in the WNBA playoffs?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

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

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close