MINNEAPOLIS – The Big Ten experience for Minnesota senior Austin Hollins has been falling behind early in the race and never catching up.
Hollins and the Gophers sidestepped consecutive losses to start conference play by building a big lead and preserving it down the stretch with some good old-fashioned foul shots.
Hollins had 18 points and nine rebounds, and Minnesota went 23 for 27 from the free-throw line to hang on for an 82-79 win over Purdue on Sunday, the first in the Big Ten for coach Richard Pitino.
I know the grind of the Big Ten season, and I know how long it is, Hollins said. I know how tough it is. I know what it’s like being in that situation that if you dwell on a loss, it can turn into two losses or three losses. I think the guys did a good job of not letting that get to them and being ready to play.
Andre Hollins added 17 points and five assists and made 9 of his 11 foul shots for the Gophers (12-3, 1-1), who led by as many as 19 in the second half before surviving a spirited comeback. The Hollinses combined for 14 points on 4-for-19 shooting against Michigan on Thursday, including just two points for Austin Hollins.
The Boilermakers (10-5, 0-2) grabbed 21 offensive rebounds to stay in the game, and after Malik Smith missed two free throws with 4 seconds left, Kendall Stephens had a half-court heave that fell short. Stephens hit a 3-pointer just before that to pull Purdue within three.
We just played harder the last couple minutes than, really, we played the rest of the game – especially defensively. That’s something that you can’t do, said Terone Johnson, who led Purdue with 18 points. Ronnie Johnson had 12 points.
Despite the momentum shift over the final 8 minutes, Pitino praised his team’s performance and Purdue coach Matt Painter was down on his. The Gophers shot 50 percent from the floor and went 11-for-24 from 3-point range. Andre Hollins was fouled on all but one of the jumpers he took in the first half, and he hit that from 3-point range.
Elliott Eliason also successfully fronted fellow 7-footer A.J. Hammons in the post, holding him to seven points and one rebound. Eliason had eight points, seven rebounds and six blocks.
I have to do better work posting up, which I was, posting up, but everybody’s got to do a better job with the ball, and attacking, said Hammons, who had 18 points plus a career-high 16 rebounds, five blocks and four assists on Tuesday against No. 3 Ohio State.
When we penetrate, we have to do a better job of probing and seeing what’s available, Painter said. But our bigs have to do a better job of moving, too.
The Gophers led 70-54 with 7:10 left, but Terone Johnson and Sterling Carter hit 3-pointers to bring Purdue within 76-72 with 2:16 remaining, the closest the Boilermakers came since the same mark in the first half. Until Smith’s misses, though, the Gophers sank six straight foul shots over the closing minutes.