Notebook: Gophers learn valuable lesson in first half of victory
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By Patrick Donnelly
MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Gophers' first three baskets in their 82-72 win over Coastal Carolina on Tuesday night at Williams Arena were a perfect representation of what they will do well when they're playing their best this season.
First, Austin Hollins aligned his lanky frame with the basket, raised his long arms skyward and flicked a graceful, arcing three-pointer on target from the right wing.
Then Andre Hollins, a few steps to the left, stared down a defender, popped up and powered home another three.
Finally, DeAndre Mathieu maneuvered through the lane at the tail end of a fast break, fended off a big man with his left arm and flipped up a circus shot for a layup with his right hand.
Yes, these Gophers are going to live and die by the three-pointer and the transition game. That's what happens when your most talented players stand 6-foot-4 or shorter. Andre Hollins led the team with 19 points. Mathieu added 17 and Austin Hollins chipped in 15.
But even a bunch of gunners like the Gophers can take it too far. They pushed it past the line on Tuesday night, when they took 17 three-pointers in the first half and made only six of them.
It was clear that coach Rich Pitino made sure he got that point across in the locker room at halftime. In the second half, the Gophers had much more success driving to the basket and getting to the free-throw line.
After shooting only three free throws in the first half, they went 17-for-21 from the line in the second half.
"Yeah, we fell in love with the three," said Andre Hollins, who went 3-for-9 from behind the arc Tuesday. "They were going under screens and giving us a lot of open shots, but we should have attacked them and gotten to the foul line. We didn't do a very good job of getting to the foul line tonight."
Austin Hollins hit a three-pointer in each half but also put the ball on the floor and got to the line twice in the second half, sinking three of his four free-throw attempts.
"We were just real passive in the first half - we weren't as aggressive as we needed to be, defensively and offensively," he said. "So in the second half we tried to pick up the intensity. And when we're hitting threes, they've got to respect that, and then when they respect that we can shot-fake and get to the basket."
The first half was played at a bit of a sluggish pace, and even though the Gophers led 39-33 at the break, Pitino let them know he wasn't thrilled with the effort.
"I just didn't like the energy," Pitino said. "I didn't think it was great, for whatever that reason was. I just tried to get them going a bit and get them to understand that, 'Guys, we've got to tighten everything up.' Because we've got one more game here and then we go on the road, three games in three days. So we've just got to shore up a lot of things."
Oto down but not out
Forward Oto Osenieks limped off the court in the first minute after halftime after a collision with a Coastal Carolina player near midcourt. The two banged knees, and Osenieks walked off heavily favoring his left leg.
He returned to action two minutes later after receiving treatment on the sidelines and appeared no worse for the wear. He tipped in a Malik Smith miss his first time down the court, hit the deck to battle three Chanticleers for a loose ball on the next possession, and converted a layup after drawing a foul on a drive to the hoop on the Gophers' next possession.
Osenieks finished with a career-high 13 points in 30 minutes, crediting a teammate's pep talk for his active night.
"The first time I came off the bench, Andre Hollins told me, 'Oto, don't stop being aggressive. Keep being aggressive,'" Osenieks said. "So when I came back in I just tried to stay aggressive. That's what we've got to do as a team."
King shaken up
The Gophers had another injury scare with 12 minutes to play in the game when Joey King and Andre Hollins collided while chasing down a loose ball on the defensive end. Hollins appeared momentarily dazed but stayed in the game.
King remained on the court for about a minute, then was escorted to the locker room by a member of the Gophers' training staff with what appeared to be a head or neck injury. He did not return to the bench the rest of the night, and after the game he was seen leaving the arena holding an ice bag to the right side of his face.
The Gophers' staff didn't offer a diagnosis on King, who - with Mo Walker suspended - is playing a vital role in keeping Elliott Eliason's minutes in check. With King sidelined for the final 12 minutes, Eliason played a game-high 34 minutes on Tuesday. That is a formula that likely won't hold up as the season grinds on.
"We're undermanned, especially in the front court, and to be even more undermanned certainly would be very difficult," Pitino said. "So hopefully we'll get some good news tomorrow. They'll check him out. It's always tough to know right away."
Arbitrary end points
Andre Hollins scored his 900th career point on Tuesday night. When the "milestone" was announced late in the second half, the Williams Arena crowd responded with a resounding smattering of cheers.
Gametime temps might have been in the 30s, but the arena had something of a tropical atmosphere to it. Tuesday's game was officially one of seven "Opening Games" of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
The Gophers head to Hawaii for real this weekend, with a three-game guarantee next Monday through Wednesday. But this week seven of the "Island teams" - aka teams playing in the Maui Invitational - took on seven "Mainland teams" - a.k.a. poor saps that have to spend next week at home instead of soaking up the rays on the beach - in such tropical climates as Dayton, Ohio; Spokane, Wash.; and of course Minneapolis.
Pitino and Coastal Carolina head coach Cliff Ellis were each presented with a lei in his team's school colors before the game.