Andre Hollins leads way as Gophers overcome sluggish performance
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Andre Hollins helped Minnesota overcome a sluggish performance, scoring 19 points for the Gophers in an 82-72 victory over Coastal Carolina Tuesday.
Hollins, the Big Ten's leading scorer entering the night, shot 6-for-14 from the floor and chipped in five rebounds and four assists for Minnesota (4-0). The junior is averaging 21.8 points per game. He scored eight straight for the Gophers and followed that stretch with a fast-break assist on their final basket of the first half, for a 39-33 lead.
Freshman Elijah Wilson led Coastal Carolina (1-3) with 25 points on 10-for-14 shooting, including 5-for-7 from three-point range. Colton Ray-St Cyr contributed 15 points and six assists, but he also had five of 20 turnovers for the Chanticleers.
DeAndre Mathieu scored 17 points with six assists, Austin Hollins added 15 points and Oto Osenieks had a career-high 13 points for the Gophers, who were outrebounded and outshot for most of the game but drew enough fouls down the stretch to pull away with free throws.
Andre Hollins and teammate Joey King banged heads trying to corral a loose ball, and King left the court in a daze with what the team called a bruised jaw.
After holding their first three opponents to 22.4 shooting from three-point range, the Gophers let the Chanticleers go 9-for-20 from behind the arc.
Elliott Eliason, who entered the night second in the Big Ten in rebounding, grabbed 11 boards but often struggled against El Hadji Ndieguene, the only Coastal Carolina senior, a native of Senegal who is one of five international-born players on the roster. Eliason had eight points, three fouls and two turnovers but also had two blocks and two steals. Ndieguene finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.
The Gophers have significantly picked up the pace under new coach Richard Pitino, with a full-court press, fast breaks at every opportunity and no hesitation to shoot three-pointers. They swished enough of them to maintain a lead for most of the night, but this was an example of the danger of simply settling for shots behind the arc and not attacking the basket.
Even though the departure of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams has thinned the Gophers in the post, they won't get far in the Big Ten without more movement and variation when they're in the half court. They had 17 attempts from three-point range and only three from the foul line in the first 20 minutes.
Malik Smith hit a couple of three-pointers in a 75-second span near the midway mark of the first half, and the Gophers immediately forced a five-second violation with their press after the second one stretched the lead to 21-14.
Austin Hollins soared into the lane to grab a missed three-pointer by Andre Hollins and dunk it with one hand in the same motion, lifting the Gophers to a 25-19 edge. But the highlights were few and far between over the first three-quarters of the game for the Gophers, who won their first three contests by an average 20-point margin.
Their defense was the biggest issue, failing to stop the slippery Chanticleers guards when they drove to and through the lane. Wilson was a handful. The 6-foot-4 native of Wilmington, N.C., is playing and scoring more than everyone else on the team, and there's a reason for that. With 42 points as a senior for Laney High School, he tied the program's single-game record set in 1980 by the great Michael Jordan.
Coastal Carolina has never beaten a Big Ten team in seven tries, but the Chanticleers had two wins each over power-conference foes Louisiana State and Clemson in the past three years. They lost here to the Gophers in 2005.
Despite a recent pair of 28-win seasons under coach Cliff Ellis, Coastal Carolina hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 1993. Ellis has taken plenty of teams there, though, at previous spots at South Alabama, Clemson and Auburn.
With half of the roster new to the program this season, the Chanticleers took defending Southeastern Conference champion Mississippi to the wire last week in losing at home, 72-70. They lost to another NCAA tournament team, at Akron to open the season.
Ellis entered the fall with the 10th-most victories in the country among active coaches.© The Associated Press