Even with one of the sparsest crowds of the season, the Gophers had several notable moments in their 75-59 victory over South Dakota State.
With both Andre and Austin Hollins on the verge of eclipsing 1,000 points for their careers and Rick Pitino in the stands donning Minnesota colors, the Gophers outmuscled a Nate Wolters-less Jackrabbits squad and leaned heavily on Elliott Eliason, Drizzy Mathieu and Austin Hollins to put SDSU away relatively soundly.
With Malik Smith and Eliason back from injuries that essentially forced them both out of the New Orleans game, the two played a combine 49 minutes to show that they were at least nearly back to full strength. Eliason found his offensive rhythm and got back into double figures for the first time since before the Maui Invitational, going 4-5 from the field and pulling down 12 rebounds while adding two more blocks.
But the story of the game was Austin Hollins, who racked up 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his third double-double of the season and highest scoring output of the year. Competing with Andre to get to 1,000 points first, he hit the milestone with just over 3 minutes left in the game.
Andre continued to stymie fans from the field and went just 3-11 to record one of his lowest point totals of the season. But with Mathieu (15) and Oto Osenieks (8) picking up the scoring slack, the game was never really in doubt after pulling away from a 23-23 tie late in the first half.
The Gophers now hit a slow stretch in their schedule with winter break and finals approaching, they have only two games over the next 21 days before starting the Big Ten conference season. Up next is a pesky Nebraska-Omaha team that put scares into Iowa and UNLV earlier this season.
- The Gophers rebounded from a fairly poor showing in the turnover department against New Orleans and cleaned up their play to the tune of 21 assists to only 7 turnovers. If there’s one stark difference in this team compared to last year’s squad its the ability to take care of the ball. And considering the team plays at a fairly quick pace, the low turnover rate is all the more impressive.
- Minnesota also continued to be effective from the free throw line, going 13-15 from the line. In fact, their 78% clip is tops in the Big Ten this year, which is a true bonus.
- After seeing a season-high 21 minutes against New Orleans with Smith ailing, Maverick Ahanmisi only saw 4 minutes of floor time while Smith was back to his 6th-man role. For what it’s worth, Mav is shooting a cool 43% from deep this season, albeit with a small sample size.