Elliott Eliason close to triple-double in Gophers' rout of Wofford
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Elliott Eliason had 11 points, 11 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks to lead Minnesota to an easy 79-57 victory over Wofford on Thursday.
Austin Hollins led the Gophers (5-0) with 18 points, and he grabbed eight rebounds, too. Oto Osenieks had a career-high 14 points, and Deandre Mathieu added 10 points. Making well-timed cuts and drives to the basket, the Gophers were as crisp on offense as they've been all season with give-and-go passes working to near-perfection.
Minnesota had 20 assists on 30 baskets and just eight turnovers.
Lee Skinner led the Terriers (1-3) with 18 points and seven rebounds, and Spencer Collins and Eric Garcia each added 10 points.
This was a good way for the Gophers to build some momentum for the Maui Invitational next week, with a game against ninth-ranked Syracuse set for Monday. They will face either Arkansas or California after that, and No. 20 Baylor and No. 13 Gonzaga are in the other half of the eight-team bracket.
After failing to put away Coastal Carolina and revealing some defensive vulnerability during an 82-72 victory two nights ago, the Gophers brought another low-major opponent into "The Barn" and this time snapped back with a commanding performance. They scored the first 13 points of the game, built a 24-2 lead and never let the Terriers come any closer than 17 points after that.
The Gophers moved the ball around so much that Andre Hollins, the Big Ten's leading scorer entering the night, only took two shots in the first half. He made them count: swishing a 3-pointer in the opening minutes and a turnaround jumper from the top of the key right before the buzzer sounded.
Hollins finished with seven points and four assists.
Osenieks has been one of the early success stories for the Gophers in the transition in coaches from Tubby Smith to Richard Pitino. The lanky 6-foot-8 junior, a native of Latvia, was buried on the bench last season and shot just 29.7 percent from the floor, including 2 for 26 from 3-point range. He rarely looked confident with the ball in his hands.
Now, moved up to power forward on a team thin in the frontcourt, Osenieks has rediscovered his outside shooting touch, been unafraid to drive to the basket and become one of the team's best rebounders with his opportunity to be a starter. His backup, Joey King, sat out of this game because of a broken jaw, so Osenieks was pressed into even more playing time. He picked up his third foul less than 16 minutes into the game, though, and Malik Smith took his spot in the lineup to start the second half.
Eliason has been getting a workout in, too, with reserve Mo Walker suspended. He'll sit out one more game for an unspecified violation of university policy. With Wofford's tallest starter, Skinner, at 6-foot-6, Eliason's long arms and quick anticipation did a lot of damage. He went 5 for 8 from the field and was a bigger force on defense.
The Terriers have built a competitive program under coach Mike Young, who's in his 12th season at the Spartanburg, S.C., school.
Behind Noah Dahlman, a native of tiny Braham, Minn., they made the NCAA tournament in 2010 and 2011. The Terriers fell to 19-14 and 13-19 the last two years, but they brought back all five starters this season. They were picked to finish fifth and sixth in the media and coaches' preseason polls for the 11-team Southern Conference.
Sophomore C.J. Neumann had six points for the Terriers, playing in his hometown. He was a 1,000-point scorer at Cretin-Derham High School in nearby St. Paul.© The Associated Press