MINNEAPOLIS — Because Minnesota Gophers guard Austin Hollins is reluctant to talk about himself, the rest of his teammates went to great lengths to speak for him Tuesday night.
“Hardest worker on the team, period,” guard DeAndre Mathieu said.
“He deserves it,” guard Andre Hollins said. “He’s been in a slump, but we believed in him. He deserves this.”
Austin Hollins hit 8 of 10 shots, went 4-for-6 on 3-pointers and scored a career-high 27 points to lead the Gophers past 20th-ranked Iowa 95-89 in a Big Ten Conference game.
And the rest of the team followed suit.
Minnesota (18-11 overall, 7-9 in conference) broke a two-game losing streak by shooting 61.2 percent overall, hitting 11 of 19 three-pointers and by converting on 16 of 18 free throws over the final 3:03 of the game.
Mathieu added 19 points, Andre Hollins had 14 and little-used forward Charles Buggs — playing in place of the injured Oto Osenieks — hit all three of his 3-pointers and scored 13 points.
Iowa (19-8, 8-6), which was playing without ill forward Melsahn Basabe, got 24 points from guard Roy Devyn Marble, but only five after halftime. Forward Aaron White scored 21, guard Josh Oglesby had 16. Iowa, which lost to Wisconsin on Saturday, has its first two-game losing streak of the season.
“They came out and shot the ball well,” Marble said. “And our defense wasn’t where it needed to be.”
But the Gophers have renewed hope at an NCAA bid, thanks in large part to Austin Hollins, who in many respects, mirrored the up-and-down play of his team. Both he and the team had struggled mightily at Ohio State on Saturday, when a halftime lead turned into a big-time blowout loss.
But both Hollins and the Gophers bounced back. Minnesota came out on fire, scoring 51 first-half points.
Despite not making a field goal over the final 8:23 of the game, Minnesota hit their free throws down the stretch to win seal their third home win against a ranked opponent this season.
“This one ranks pretty high,” senior Austin Hollins said. “It feels good. We had two losses. To come back like this? It helps our confidence.”
Andre Hollins’ 3-pointer with 8:23 left gave Minnesota a 13-point lead. Iowa responded, getting within 82-80 on Marble’s three-point play with 2:20 left.
The Hawkeyes got no closer. Now they will look to end their first losing streak of the season against Indiana on Thursday.
“I think we played against a team that was inspired,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “They were sharing the basketball. (Minnesota) has good shooters. They have not been shooting well but that doesn’t mean they are not good shooters.
“We’ll get another chance at it Thursday. We never get too high or too low. Hopefully (against Indiana) we’ll play well.”
There is renewed hope for Minnesota, thanks to Austin Hollins. In addition to his 27 points, he was the point man when it came to defending Marble in the second half, 20 minutes in which Marble went 1-for-4 and had three turnovers.
“He’s a really unique kid,” Gophers coach Rick Pitino said of Austin Hollins. “He had a really bad game at Ohio State. But he comes back the next practice and his attitude was unbelievable. Positive, leading. That’s hard to do when you’re not playing well. It’s a testament to him as a kid.”
The victory comes after the Gophers had been heading the wrong direction.
“This is a great win for our confidence,” Andre Hollins said. “It’s a testament to our ability to bounce back after these two losses. We’re staying positive. We knew this season wasn’t over.”
NOTES: Iowa coach Fran McCaffery has told his players to stay away from Twitter. This edict comes in the wake of senior Zach McCabe having traded barbs with critics on the social media website after Iowa’s loss to Wisconsin on Saturday. Wanting his players to focus on the team’s stretch run, McCaffery has asked his players to shut down their Twitter accounts until after the season. … Tuesday’s game was the second of three straight against ranked opponents; the Gophers play at No. 16 Michigan on Saturday. … Iowa has only one more conference
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