Andre Hollins

Report: Minnesota’s Andre Hollins unlikely to play Saturday

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Minnesota junior guard Andre Hollins played less than a minute in the Golden Gophers’ win over Wisconsin on January 22, as he sprained his ankle after attempting a jump shot in the early stages of the game. As a result of the injury Hollins missed Minnesota’s loss to Nebraska last Sunday, and according to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports the guard is expected to sit out Saturday’s game against Northwestern as well.

Hollins, who’s averaging 16.2 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game this season, reached double figures in eight consecutive games before suffering the ankle injury.

Without Hollins two newcomers stepped up against Wisconsin, with Dre Mathieu (18 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Malik Smith (14 points, three rebounds and three assists) figuring prominently in the victory. Smith, who came off the bench against Wisconsin, started against Nebraska and scored 29 points on 9-for-15 shooting.

Two issues for the Minnesota backcourt in their loss to Nebraska was the play of Mathieu and Austin Hollins. Mathieu scored 14 points and dished out four assists but he also committed nine turnovers, with Austin Hollins scoring nine points on 2-for-5 shooting from the field. Smith scored 29 points to lead the way offensively for Minnesota, but that performance wasn’t enough as the Golden Gophers fell to 4-4 in Big Ten play (15-6 overall).

Those three players will be key on Saturday afternoon as Richard Pitino’s group looks to take care of a Northwestern squad that’s coming off of a win at No. 17 Wisconsin earlier this week, with Drew Crawford scoring 30 points to lead the way.

Andre Hollins has an ankle sprain, but how long is he out?

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Minnesota’s leading scorer Andre Hollins missed all but about 30 seconds of last night’s win over No. 9 Wisconsin after rolling his ankle.

He spent much of the game sitting in the training room, watching on television. That gave some cause for concern, especially considering he reportedly left the arena in a walking boot and on crutches.

But according to reports, it appears that Hollins’ injury isn’t incredibly serious. Jeff Borzello of CBSSports.com says he will be out for 7-10 days. Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com says that his status for Minnesota’s game on Sunday is still uncertain. Amelia Rayno of the Star-Tribune called it a “severe ankle sprain” and hinted that he could be out for two weeks.

In other words, no one is really sure just how bad the sprain is at this point, but with injuries like this, the concern isn’t whether or not he can damage the ankle anymore. It’s pain tolerance and whether or not the team can wait for the player to get fully healthy.

The good news for Minnesota?

Given the way that Dre Mathieu, Malik Smith and Mo Walker played last night, it’s clear that Minnesota can still be very competitive without Hollins on the floor.

Minnesota lands second significant win over No. 9 Wisconsin

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Let this sink in for a second: Minnesota’s best player, Andre Hollins, played 30 seconds on Wednesday night.

That’s not an exaggeration, that’s a stat. On Minnesota’s first possession of the game, he hit a pull-up jumper and landed on a Wisconsin defender’s foot, rolling his left ankle over badly enough that he didn’t emerge from the Minnesota locker room until late in the second half.

And it didn’t matter.

The Gophers still beat up on No. 9 Wisconsin in convincing fashion, handing the Badgers their third straight loss, 81-68.

The postgame chatter is likely going to center around both of Minnesota’s Hollinses. Andre’s ankle will be a major concern if he injured it seriously, and Austin just about took the roof off the barn when he threw down this dunk late in the second half.

But the reason that Minnesota won was their dominance in the paint. In the first half, it was thanks to not-as-big-as-he-was big man Mo Walker, who finished with season-highs of 18 points and nine boards, five of which came on the offensive end of the floor. He scored 12 straight at one point in the first half, which opened up a lead that the Gophers never rescinded.

The reason they never gave up that lead? Dre Mathieu, a diminutive point guard who finished with 18 points, five boards and three assists, the majority of which came in the final 20 minutes.

It doesn’t get much more impressive than that, dominating a top ten team on a night where you’re without your leading scorer.

At this point, Richard Pitino has to be in the discussion for Big Ten Coach of the Year, and possibly the National Coach of the Year. Obviously, much of that will depend on how well the rest of the season goes for Minnesota. They have home wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin, both of whom look completely different than they did two weeks ago, and nothing but a home win over Florida State in non-conference play.

Is that enough to have them on the right side of the bubble today?

Yes.

Will it be enough in March if the Gophers can’t beat anyone on the road and don’t land anymore notable wins at home?

Probably not.

But whatever the case may be, it’s obvious that Richard Pitino has his boys playing hard and playing well. They’re going to be a factor in the Big Ten the rest of the season, and at this point, I would say it would be a disappointment if they didn’t find a way into the tournament.

Given the expectations this group had entering the season, that’s saying something.

Minnesota’s front line comes to the rescue against No. 11 Ohio State

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It’s officially time to be concerned about No. 11 Ohio State.

Their inability to consistently create offense is a problem, and the fact that they can get exposed by opponents with more powerful front lines certainly doesn’t help matters. Think about it like this: the Buckeyes got 22 points from leading scorer LaQuinton Ross and forced Minnesota into 18 turnovers and still somehow managed to lost to the Gophers by 10, 63-53.

How did that happen?

Well, it starts with the fact that Aaron Craft and Shannon Scott combined for eight points, five assists and nine turnovers. The Buckeyes cannot beat good teams on the nights where those two are not able to create some kind of offense.

Another issue was that they simply didn’t have an answer for … Elliott Eliason. He finished with 12 points, 13 boards and two blocks. With all due respect to Eliason, who is one of the more improved players in the Big Ten this season, if he’s dominating your interior players, it’s not a good sign.

All told, Minnesota shot 51.1% from the game and 63.6% on two-point field goals, the majority of which were scored by their big men in and around the paint, which is why this win was just as promising for Minnesota as it was concerning for OSU.

You see, the strength of the Gophers this season is their perimeter play. Andre and Austin Hollins are both borderline all-Big Ten players. Dre Mathieu is fearless attacking the rim and Malik Smith is a sparkplug off the bench. They run the same pressing style that Richard Pitino’s father, Rick, runs at Louisville. They’re not exactly known for the play of their big men, but on Thursday, they knocked off a top 15 team on a night where their guards struggled and their bigs controlled the paint.

That’s promising.

More importantly, the Gophers landed a big win in their quest to earn an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. They were 13-4 entering the night, but their two best wins came against Florida State and Purdue. They needed this win to get themselves headed in the right direction, but it’s not the kind of win that will make their tournament resume. Ohio State has now lost three straight games. Their best win on the season was a dominating performance against a Marquette team that looks like they might struggle to even earn a bid to the NCAA tournament.

Bottom line?

Both Ohio State and Minnesota have plenty of work left to do if they’re going dancing.

Minnesota fends off a talented Nebraska-Omaha group

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On the surface, Minnesota leading Nebraska-Omaha — who is in just their second year of playing a schedule comprised of almost exclusively Division I competition — 83-77 with just minutes remaining in regulation may seem like a lackluster effort by the Golden Gophers. That’s far from the case.

Minnesota played well. Their potent offense ran up 90+ points in a 92-79 win, and they excelled in transition throughout the game. Deandre Mathieu poured in 27 points on 9-11 shooting. Their defense left much to be desired, but a tip of the hat must be given to Omaha.

Omaha isn’t eligible to win the Summit League championship as they are still in the midst of their transition to Division I, but they will no doubt be a factor in that league, along with Denver, North Dakota State, and IPFW.

It was clear this wouldn’t be a walk in the park for Minnesota from the beginning as Omaha had an offensive answer every time Minnesota looked like it may go on a run. In the opening half, they used the three-point shot to keep pace and knot the game at 44 by halftime, hitting ten triples.

To think that the Mavericks could duplicate their shooting performance in the second half would have been nearly impossible, and they didn’t. In fact, they didn’t hit one shot from beyond the arc in the second half. Despite that, they leaned on Devin Patterson and CJ Carter, who scored in a variety of ways.

Head coach Derrin Hansen is building something good in Omaha — no doubt about that. A team just doesn’t go into Iowa and lead the Hawkeyes with less than ten minutes remaining without being a talented bunch.

As for the Gophers, they have played well since consecutive losses in Maui against Syracuse and Arkansas, having won five straight games. Mathieu and Andre Hollins both had big nights, but it was the play of Malik Smith off the bench (19 points, 5-8 3PT) that should have Gopher fans encouraged. Minnesota already has one of the better back courts in the Big Ten, and if Smith — who transferred from Florida International to follow Rick Pitino Jr. — fills the role of instant offense off the bench, the Gophers become that much more dynamic.

Minnesota has a final tune-up against Texas A&M Corpus Christi next Saturday, prior to their Big Ten opener vs. Michigan — that’s when the fun begins.