The Gophers survived an ugly first half to beat Northwestern 69-51 on Sunday at Williams Arena for their 10th straight win.
No. 9 Minnesota has won its first two Big Ten games for the first time since 2009-10, when it last made the NCAA tournament.
The Gophers, struggling to penetrate Northwestern’s zone defense, took a 17-14 lead into the locker room at halftime.
“Our [defense] wasn’t the problem. We were just missing easy shots ... that we usually make,” senior Rodney Williams said.
Cue Austin Hollins.
The junior found shots in the open floor in transition in the second half, hitting a career-high five three-pointers in about four minutes.
“We talked about getting the ball to the basket more and ... finding our shots,” coach Tubby Smith said. “That’s what changed from the first half.”
Hollins’ run turned a nine-point Gophers lead into a 20-point spread with 8:45 left in the game.
“I just tried to play within the offense and take my shots when I got them,” Hollins said.
The shooting guard heated up quickly as Maverick Ahanmisi and Joe Coleman fed Hollins on the fast break for two of his first three makes from long range.
Once Hollins caught fire, Minnesota didn’t look back.
The Gophers scored more second-half points (52) than Northwestern had in the entire contest, led by Hollins’ 17-point second half.
“I told Austin to shoot, just keep shooting,” sophomore Andre Hollins said.
Minnesota dominated the glass in the first half despite struggling to score.
The nation’s fifth-best offensive rebounding team showed its athleticism by notching 10 offensive boards by halftime.
Senior Trevor Mbakwe had a season-high four blocks and 11 rebounds. He has recorded consecutive double-digit rebounding games for the first time this season.
Twelve different Gophers players scored Sunday night. Andre Hollins played only 17 minutes because of three first-half fouls.
Ahanmisi, who played 19 minutes, replaced Hollins with 4:38 left before halftime as Minnesota held an 11-10 lead.
“I thought Andre turned down some shots in the first half that he should’ve taken," Smith said. “But thank goodness for Austin getting hot in that second half."
The Gophers hit the road for their next two games, stopping in Illinois on Jan. 9 and in Indiana on Jan. 12.
“It’s a tough stretch, but it’s a chance to see where we’re at,” Mbakwe said. “This year is different.”
- Williams, who finished with nine points and five rebounds, recorded his 1,000th point on Sunday, becoming the 38th player to do so in Gophers history.
- Andre Hollins’ 17 minutes are a season-low for the starting point guard.
- The Wildcats’ 20 rebounds ties the fewest allowed by Minnesota this season. The Gophers held Toledo and Richmond to 20 rebounds in their nonconference schedule.
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