Gophers score early, often in blowout victory

  • Article by: MICHAEL RAND , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 22, 2011 - 7:18 AM

Minnesota jumped out to a 25-4 lead and liberally dished out playing time to subs.

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Austin Hollins made the top 10 plays on "SportsCenter" last week after a ferocious put-back dunk against Fairfield. While that might not make the Gophers sophomore guard an expert on highlight-worthy plays, he had a pretty good view Monday of a lot of examples from teammate Rodney Williams.

"He had so many," Hollins said of Williams' five dunks, all of which came in the first half as the Gophers cruised to an 85-56 victory over Mount St. Mary's. "One of them has to get on ['SportsCenter']."

Hollins, though, was content with less glamor and more efficiency this time. He scored seven points in the first 90 seconds -- on a pair of three-pointers, one of which he converted into a rare four-point play -- and finished with career highs in points (14) and assists (six) in a confidence-boosting victory all-around for the Gophers (4-0).

Playing a shorthanded Mount St. Mary's squad (1-3), the Gophers jumped ahead 25-4 on the way to a 51-18 bulge at halftime before an announced Williams Arena crowd of 10,487.

"It was definitely comfortable. We were playing up-tempo like we want to play," Hollins said. "When our shots are falling, it makes things a lot easier."

Much of the damage was done without key seniors Ralph Sampson III and Trevor Mbakwe. Sampson didn't play after rolling his ankle Thursday. Coach Tubby Smith said he hopes to have Sampson back and "fully healed" Thursday against DePaul in the first game of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.

Mbakwe, meanwhile, had only two points at the break before finishing with 10 points and nine rebounds -- falling short of a double-double for the first time in four games this season.

But the Gophers didn't need them; 11 players scored in the first half alone, with younger players doing much of the work.

Redshirt freshman Elliott Eliason, who started in place of Sampson and drew praise from Smith for being "active and mobile," finished with four points, four rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot. Freshman Joe Coleman had a career-high 10 points, five of them during a 13-0 run that stretched the lead in the first half. Fellow freshman Andre Hollins finished with a career-high 13 points.

Even when Austin Hollins missed from long range, good things happened. Perhaps the best of Williams' slams came on a putback of a wayward Hollins shot.

"I kind of just wait and see if anyone is going to come and box me out," said Williams, who finished with 12 points on five dunks and two free throws. "I don't really go in there looking for the tip-dunk. I look to secure the rebound. But tonight they were just bouncing my way."

The Gophers committed only three turnovers before the break and finished with a season-low nine in the game. They also won the rebounding battle 36-25.

It was a departure from their first three nonconference victories, which featured moments of legitimate tension and a considerable lack of breathing room. It also eased the minds of anyone wondering if the Gophers could, in fact, put their foot down and keep it there against a lesser opponent.

The path does not figure to be as resistance-free in upcoming games against programs with more recognizable names. The Gophers could face Texas Tech on Friday in Orlando. The following week features home games against Virginia Tech and Southern California.

"We needed a good game to have some confidence and feel good about ourselves," Smith said.

  • related content

  • Game recap: Gophers 85, Mount St. Mary's 56

    Monday November 21, 2011

    The sophomore guard set career highs in points (14) and assists (six) while setting the tempo with a pair of three-pointers in the first 90 seconds that helped the Gophers...

  • Gophers-Mount St. Mary's boxscore

    Tuesday November 22, 2011

  • Joe Coleman (right), Julian Norfleet


    Up next: 1:30 p.m. Thursday vs. DePaul • Old Spice Classic, Orlando • TV: ESPN2 (1500ESPN-AM)

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