MINNEAPOLIS — During Wednesday’s loss to Nebraska, the Minnesota men’s basketball team didn’t get any scoring from senior Rodney Williams, junior Austin Hollins or sophomore Joe Coleman. The trio, normally among the Gophers’ leaders on offense, was a combined 0-for-9 from the floor as Minnesota fell 53-51 on the road to the Cornhuskers.
Hollins’ scoreless night continued a concerning trend for the 6-foot-4 forward.
Including his game against Nebraska in which he was 0-for-5 from the field, Hollins has now hit just five of 28 in over his last four games. During that stretch, he’s 0-for-14 from 3-point range. Hollins has proven earlier this year that he can be a dangerous shooter, but that shooting touch has suddenly escaped him.
“Austin hasn’t shot the ball well for about 10 games. When he’s not playing well, we’re going to have a tough time,” Gophers coach Tubby Smith said Friday, one day before the Gophers prepared to take on Purdue in their regular-season finale. “He’s a great kid. He’ll do whatever it takes. He’s just got to start making shots.”
Despite his recent struggles, Hollins is tied for second on the Gophers in scoring, averaging 10.4 points. He’s surpassed 20 points twice this season and has scored in double figures 16 times in 30 games.
In his last four games, though, Hollins has scored five, eight, four and zero points, respectively. Minnesota is 2-2 during that stretch, with losses against Ohio State and Nebraska.
“I know shooters, not just shooters but anybody out there, if you’re not doing what you know you’re capable of, you beat yourself up a little bit,” Hollins said. “But at the same time, you’ve just got to keep your confidence up and stay positive.”
The Gophers hope for Hollins’ shooting slump comes to an end Saturday against Purdue. In the meantime, they’re supporting their struggling teammate as he looks to regain his shooting touch.
“You just have to keep shooting. We know he can shoot. (There’s) no point where you tell a shooter to stop shooting,” point guard Andre Hollins said. “It’s hard not to get frustrated when you know you can hit shots and you’re not making them. We’re just going to have to keep supporting him. We know he can hit the shot. We need him for this run.”
Free throws a point of emphasis: The Gophers didn’t shoot well from the floor in Wednesday’s loss, but Minnesota’s struggles at the free-throw line were particularly concerning. Smith’s team made just 10 of 20 free throws, which proved to be the difference in a 53-51 loss.
“I thought if we get five free throws, I’m in a different mood,” said Smith, who was noticeably frustrated after practice on Friday. “But we didn’t. We lost. We got beat.”
Three Gophers — Trevor Mbakwe, Maverick Ahanmisi and Andre Hollins — were 3-for-4 from the line against Nebraska, and center Elliott Eliason (1-for-3) was the only other player to make even one. The Cornhuskers, meanwhile, made 16 of 20.
“That’s what it takes to win basketball games is perfecting the little things,” said Andre Hollins, who missed his only free throw-attempt Wednesday. “That day, we didn’t perfect our free throws.”
Another lineup change: Smith started all four seniors — Mbakwe, Rodney Williams, Andre Ingram and Julian Welch — in Minnesota’s win against Penn State for the Gophers’ senior day. Minnesota used that same starting lineup against Nebraska, but it didn’t produce the same results.
When asked Friday whether he’d consider keeping that lineup for a third game, Smith said he’ll instead shake things up.
“It worked for senior day but it didn’t work down there, so we’ll go back to what we’ve been doing,” Smith said. “Anything can happen between now and tomorrow.”
That likely means Smith will now start Andre and Austin Hollins, Coleman, Williams and Mbakwe against the Boilermakers.