MINNEAPOLIS — Whenever the Gophers needed an answer in the first half of Tuesday’s game against Coastal Carolina, Andre Hollins was there.
But when Hollins went quiet in the second, other players stepped up. Minnesota found a balance offensively that helped the Gophers pull away from the Chanticleers for an 82-72 win at Williams Arena. It likely will never be a one-man show for Minnesota this season, and Tuesday’s win was a prime example of that.
“That’s what we want to do. When one guy’s off, another guy might be on,” said senior Austin Hollins, one of four Gophers in double-figures. “You never know. That’s why it was a team sport.”
While Andre Hollins led Minnesota with 19 points, just four of them came in the second half. If was the other Hollins, Austin, with a big second half, scoring 10 of his 15 points after halftime. Minnesota also got 17 points from speedy point guard DeAndre Mathieu and 13 points from Oto Osenieks. Center Elliott Eliason chipped in eight points and a team-high 11 rebounds, along with a pair of blocks.
Andre Hollins was on his game in the first half, answering seemingly every punch that Coastal Carolina threw at Minnesota. After the Chanticleers cut the Gophers’ lead to one point late in the first half, Hollins responded with a 3-pointer as Minnesota eventually took a six-point lead into the locker room at the half. Hollins later hit from long distance when Coastal Carolina again cut the lead to one.
On this night, Osenieks showed that he can be a part of the scoring mix. He was one of four Gophers to hit from downtown and finished with a career-high 13 points. Osenieks scored 23 total points in Minnesota’s first three games but was 4-for-8 from the floor and made four free throws en route to scoring a baker’s dozen.
“Coach Pitino says all the time, the offense will come if you play good defense,” Osenieks said. “That’s what’s been going on.”
Osenieks averaged just 2.2 points per game last year as a reserve but has started all four of Minnesota’s games so far at the forward as center Mo Walker is currently serving a six-game suspension. The junior from Latvia has made the most of his increased playing time (his 30 minutes Tuesday were a career high) and his confidence has risen as a result.
“He should be very confident, because he’s playing really hard,” Pitino said. “I know it had been said that he just didn’t have confidence in his jump shot last year, whatever it may be. I think a lot of it has to do with he knows he’s going to play, so you’re going to be much more confident.”
Mathieu got into the action, too, as his quickness helped create havoc on defense. Minnesota turned that into offense the other way off of his three steals. Mathieu, a junior college transfer from Central Arizona, had 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting. That included a pair of baskets directly off of his own steals, as well as a coast-to-coast layup.
“He should always be able to affect the game,” Pitino said. “He can always bring something because of his speed, because of his quickness, because of the way we play.”
Pitino wasn’t particularly pleased with his team’s effort on defense in Tuesday’s win. The Gophers allowed a season-high 72 points and let the Chanticleers connect on nine 3-pointers, which helped keep the game close for a while.
Offensively, though, Minnesota showed that it has the type of balance that can help it overcome an off night from just one player. When Andre Hollins went quiet in the second half, he had plenty of teammates to help pick up the slack.
“We don’t have just one leader, I feel like,” Osenieks said. “Every night, somebody can come out and step up and bring something to the game. Tonight, everybody helped. It was a tough team effort tonight.”
King leaves game with injury: As Andre Hollins and sophomore Joey King collided midway through the second half, the crowd at Williams Arena went silent as both players sprawled on the court.
Hollins popped up shortly thereafter, but King remained on the ground as a team trainer came to look at him. King walked off, appearing a bit woozy, and was taken to the locker room after hitting his head. He did not return to the game, and Pitino didn’t have an update on his status afterward.
“They’re going to check him out tomorrow,” Pitino said. “We’re not sure exactly what it is just yet. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious. We’re undermanned, especially in the frontcourt. Even more undermanned would be very difficult.”
Hollins said after the game that he was fine, but he was worried about his teammate. King left the locker room after the game with a large bag of ice on the right side of his face.
“Sometimes you don’t know what happened,” Hollins said. “I wasn’t sure if he was OK or if I was OK. I hope and pray he’s doing well and he’s OK and it’s not anything really serious.”