If the first half of Minnesota’s beheading of Northwestern (or jNW for “just Northwestern”) didn’t put you to sleep or force you to do something else for 20 minutes then a handshake and a token of congratulations in order because you really, really love basketball. Indeed, before Austin Hollins and the Gophers opened up and finished a 69-51 victory over the Wildcats, both sides forced the fans to travel back in time to Naismith-era basketball and trudge through a first half that saw a combined 31 points on 31 percent shooting … total. That’s right, the Gophers went into halftime with an unbelievable 17-14 lead. Just the way the father of basketball envisioned.
It was just as bad as it sounds. Zero fastbreak points, horrific free throw shooting and overall just an absolute absence of offense. Of course, Northwestern deployed the old “if we don’t let them have the ball then they can’t score” mentality, which actually worked for quite a while and frustrated the Gophers. But Minnesota was out of sorts for the first 20 minutes and it certainly showed.
However, the team came out in the 2nd half looking completely different. But it wasn’t until an unmistakable outburst of energy from Joe Coleman with 17 minutes that the Gophers turned a new page in the game. From then on it was all Minnesota and they barely looked back, shooting nearly 60% and destroying the Wildcats on boards as they sheepishly looked on.
Which leads us to Austin Hollins. Now we all know about someone being “on fire” and seemingly unable to miss. Andre Hollins is capable of doing this, but not in a long time have we seen someone other than Andre Hollins go berserk and completely take over a game for a few minutes. In fact, Austin Hollins achieved the official NBA Jam definition of “on fire”. Hitting three shots before the other team can score. If we were playing Sega Genesis tonight then Hollins would have been shooting a flaming basketball and setting the nets ablaze.
Just to lay it out: In just 3 minutes and 13 seconds of basketball Hollins scored 15 points on five three pointers and turned Minnesota’s 12-point lead into a 20-point blowout. In just 3 minutes! This doesn’t include the two free throws he hit moments before. In just four minutes he scored 17 points. That is unbelievable.
|12:04||21-33||Austin Hollins made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Rodney Williams.|
|11:41||Jared Swopshire made Layup. Assisted by Dave Sobolewski.||23-33|
|11:08||23-33||Maverick Ahanmisi missed Three Point Jumper.|
|11:08||23-33||Austin Hollins Offensive Rebound.|
|11:08||23-33||Austin Hollins missed Tip Shot.|
|11:08||Alex Marcotullio Defensive Rebound.||23-33|
|10:51||Reggie Hearn missed Three Point Jumper.||23-33|
|10:51||23-33||Trevor Mbakwe Defensive Rebound.|
|10:43||23-36||Austin Hollins made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Maverick Ahanmisi.|
|10:23||Alex Marcotullio missed Three Point Jumper.||23-36|
|10:23||23-36||Joe Coleman Defensive Rebound.|
|10:15||23-39||Austin Hollins made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Joe Coleman.|
|10:08||Northwestern Full Timeout.|
|9:57||Dave Sobolewski Turnover.||23-39|
|9:54||Official TV Timeout.|
|9:47||23-42||Austin Hollins made Three Point Jumper.|
|9:32||23-42||Foul on Andre Ingram|
|9:18||Reggie Hearn made Jumper.||25-42|
|8:51||25-45||Austin Hollins made Three Point Jumper. Assisted by Elliott Eliason.|
It was both fun and mind-boggling at the same time. In fact, none of this game really made any sense. The teams went from scoring 31 points in half to throwing down 89 in the second. It was nuts.
In the end, the Gophers were just too much for the Wildcats in a couple different areas. First and foremost they had too much offense for jNW. The Wildcats played mostly man-t0-man defense the entire game and the Gophers were just too physical. jNW went to the hated 1-3-1 zone only once in the whole game even though it worked on that one instance they used. Second, the Gophers used their physicality to completely bully Northwestern on the boards. It wasn’t even fair. Minnesota won the rebounding battle 47-20 and had more offensive rebounds than jNW had total. Read that again.
Once again, the Gophers showed some character by not getting frustrated and letting the game get away from them. Certainly they played poorly in the first half, but they shook it off and completely owned Northwestern in the 2nd. They dominated a conference opponent at home that they have struggled with in the past and didn’t let initial sloppiness impede a victory. Again, they showed marks of a good, veteran team.
Notes and thoughts:
- While he only scored four points, Trevor Mbakwe (a “below the rim” guy according to Jeff Goodman) pulled down 11 rebounds (5 offensive) and swatted four blocks. He was a beast down low and kept the Wildcats from achieving any sort of semblance of post offense. In fact, it wasn’t even fair how little they could accomplish down there.
- Andre Hollins got into foul trouble early in the 2nd half and gave way to Maverick Ahanmisi, who did an okay job filling in. With the Gophers pulling away early in the 2nd half there was no need to put Hollins back in the game so he finished with only 17 minutes.
- Oto Osenieks was the first guy off the bench in tonight’s game, which is curious considering he was almost at the end of the bench near the end of the non-conference season. He had an ugly airball in one of his deeper shots, but otherwise played pretty physically and under control in his 15 minutes. It will be interesting to see how he’s used in tighter games.
- Wally Ellenson got some minutes in tonight’s game towards the end and put on an alley-oop clinic. Man, can that kid jump and throw down.
- Super-recruit Rashad Vaughn from Robbinsdale Cooper HS was in the arena tonight and got a couple of chants directed at him from the student section. Hopefully that helps influence his decision to, you know, come here and dominate.