With five minutes left, the Gophers down by four to Nebraska and in dire need of a spark, Andre Hollins snatched up a defensive rebound and got the ball out in transition. On the run, the point guard dished to Austin Hollins, once one of the team’s most reliable shooters.
But the junior seemed to want nothing to do with the orange sphere that’s given him so much grief on the offensive end, lately.
So he passed back to his floor general, who had nothing to do but float up a short, off-balance jumper that bounced away, and kept the Gophers reaching.
Austin Hollins does just about everything a coach could want.
He comes in the gym early, and stays late. He never takes a play off in practice. He gives you all he’s got in games.
But most of that hard work isn’t translating to games lately. In the last 11 games, the shooter’s touch from range has gone completely flat, and with all those zeros being posted, Hollins has become more timid as well.
Wednesday, those struggles were only amplified – with Hollins (0-for-5 from the field) going scoreless for the first time all year.
What’s going on? Hollins hasn’t hit a single 3-pointer in four games, going 0-for-14 from range in that span.
The guard wasn’t made available last night, but head coach Tubby Smith said that at this point, it’s clearly a mental block.
“That’s got to be it,” he said. “Because Austin was unbelievable in practice … He’s been lighting it up, so I don’t know what’s gotten into him, or what’s going on that’s causing this. That’s what happens when you go through a slump.”
Every shooter goes through slumps, but unfortunately for the Gophers, this one has lingered for quite some time. On a team where outside shooting was already a weakness, even with Austin Hollins’ other production, his disappearance has been costly. He’s become a risky choice for the guy to take the last second shot. And when the Gophers struggle to penetrate a zone, the lack of enough outside threats falls partly on his shoulders as well.
Smith clearly respects Hollins a lot for the other things he does – the way he’s contributed in the midst of his slump with his hard-nosed defense and by doing other little things – but that the Gophers are so lacking in shooters right now is a fundamental problem.
Hollins is probing, but he’s got to find solutions soon.
“He gets in the gym and works as hard as anybody, works harder than anybody on the team,” Smith said. “But he’s a guy that we count on. When he’s having a hard time, we have a hard time. That’s been a big part of why we’ve struggled over the past few weeks.”
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