Minnesota cruises past Montana 84-58
DeAndre Mathieu added 15 points and five assists for the Gophers (2-0), who used a 14-0 surge early in the second half to make a double-digit lead even safer. Minnesota finished 11 for 25 from 3-point range, and seven different players swished at least one shot from behind the arc.
In two games under coach Richard Pitino, the Gophers have shot 40 percent from 3-point range (20 for 50) to 27.4 for their opponents (14 for 51). They beat Lehigh 81-62 last week.
Kareem Jamar had 18 points and six rebounds for the Grizzlies (0-1) in their season opener, and Keron DeShields and Jordan Gregory each had eight points. They play Thursday at South Dakota State, another 2013 NCAA tournament entrant.
Hollins was the point guard his first two years under coach Tubby Smith, but Pitino has the 6-foot-2 junior playing the shooting guard position in a small but speedy lineup with the 5-foot-9 transfer Mathieu running the offense and playing the top of the press. Hollins went 3 for 7 from 3-point range and 5 for 5 from the free-throw line, the only Gophers player who didn't miss a foul shot.
Oto Osenieks had nine points and six rebounds, looking far more comfortable as the starting power forward than he ever did as a reserve under Smith. The lanky 6-foot-8 junior from Latvia shot 2 for 26 from 3-point range as a sophomore. He's 4 for 6 this season.
The Grizzlies were a trendy upset pick when the bracket was unveiled last March as a No. 13 seed with 25 wins, but they were swatted away in the first round 81-34 by Syracuse, which reached the Final Four. Picked to finish second and third in the 11-team Big Sky Conference, in media and coaches polls respectively, Montana is missing three of its top five scorers from last season. But the Grizzlies have five players back who started four games or more, led by the reigning Big Sky Most Valuable Player in Jamar.
They tried to match Minnesota's eagerness to shoot the 3-pointer, and that kept them competitive for a while. Brandon Gfeller's shot from the corner bounced high off the backboard and dropped in to pull Montana within 19-15 near the midpoint of the first half.
The Gophers were too fast and too athletic, though, with their full-court press and aggressive half-court defense causing the Grizzlies all kinds of problems. This sequence, though an extreme example, told the story of the night:
Over a 3-minute stretch before the first media timeout, the Gophers had three steals and three 3-pointers and the Grizzlies had three turnovers and a foul.
Elliott Eliason capably patrolled the paint for Minnesota with six points, eight rebounds and a career-high five blocks. Austin Hollins added 11 points and 10 rebounds from the wing, and the Gophers outrebounded the Grizzlies 31-24 including 14-5 on the offensive boards.
Even the student section was in prime form. Twice in the first half, the devious group got the Grizzlies to airball a hurried 3-pointer with a premature shot-clock countdown.
Up next for the Gophers is a road trip to Richmond on Saturday.