Paradise is kind to Gophers in win over Stanford

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 25, 2012 - 6:43 AM

Andre Hollins was fouled on a half-court attempt with less than a second to play, sending the Gophers past Stanford.

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PARADISE ISLAND, BAHAMAS - Count the Battle 4 Atlantis as a success for the Gophers, and potentially another argument that this team belongs in the NCAA men's basketball tournament come March.

The Gophers ended the three-day tournament with their second consecutive victory, this one 66-63 over Stanford in a crazy finish, as Andre Hollins was fouled on a half-court attempt with 0.4 seconds to go in a tie game and made all three free throws.

The unusual ending wrapped up a game that wasn't always pretty for the Gophers, but they got the job done.

"I think this was the most competitive tournament I think I've ever coached in other than the NCAA and the NIT," coach Tubby Smith said of the eight-team Battle 4 Atlantis. "It's good to get two wins out of this."

The second win was more than a little dramatic at the end against a Stanford team that returned eight players from the squad that routed the Gophers in the NIT championship game in March.

The Gophers (6-1) had the ball with 14.3 seconds left and the score tied. Stanford's Dwight Powell deflected the ball and nearly stole it from Hollins, but the sophomore -- who was held to eight points a day after his 41-point outburst -- gathered it with only seconds to go. As he launched a Hail Mary before the buzzer, he was stunningly fouled by Chasson Randle.

"I couldn't believe he was even near me," Hollins said.

Officials confirmed the foul came before time had expired, and one, two, three shots later, the Gophers moved to 2-1 on the trip, which included a loss to No. 5 Duke and a victory over No. 19 Memphis.

"That's why I was hollering at Dre to shoot it on that last play, because you never know," Smith said. "It might go in, you might get fouled."

The Gophers led 63-61 with 26 seconds left, but Mbakwe was called for a questionable foul on Powell, and the 6-10 big man -- who was terrific for Stanford in the second half, finishing with 22 points -- made both free throws to tie the score.

"It's just tough being a ref and I think if we were in the same position, I think we'd make a lot of mistakes too," Mbakwe said. "In my eyes, it was a clean block, but obviously the refs didn't think so, so that's all that matters."

But the Gophers got to the line 35 times themselves, making 26. They also held Stanford (4-3) to 35.6 percent shooting in the second half while shooting 52.6 percent themselves.

Mbakwe finished with his 24th career double-double with 19 points and 12 rebounds. The Gophers fell into the turnover trap again early, committing 10 in the first half and 18 overall, but Mbakwe provided a spark after entering the game, helping them play to a 32-32 tie at the break.

In the second half, the Gophers built an eight-point lead before again looking sloppy at times, enabling the Cardinal to go on a 15-4 run to set up the tight finish.

But Mbakwe was fantastic in far and away his most dominant game of the season.

"Every game I can kind of tell a difference, I'm able to do more and more," he said. "Obviously I want to rush back to being as aggressive and as explosive as I used to be, but I just have to be smart in the way I play and just take it game by game."

It was the finish the Gophers needed heading into a visit to Florida State on Tuesday, the last game in an important five-game stretch in which so far they are 3-1.

"We showed a lot of fight," said Rodney Williams, who scored 12 points. "It was a tough first loss for us, but we stayed together, we kept playing for one another and we fought these last two games."

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