MINNEAPOLIS – Austin Hollins scored 20 points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds as Minnesota pulled away from South Dakota State for a 75-59 victory Tuesday night.
DeAndre Mathieu added 15 points, and Elliott Eliason had 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for the Gophers (9-2), who had 21 assists and only seven turnovers. They held a 40-30 rebounding advantage.
Jordan Dykstra led the Jackrabbits (4-7) with 16 points and 16 rebounds, and Chad White added 15 points.
The Gophers had a special guest behind their bench, with coach Richard Pitino's father, Rick Pitino, wearing a maroon-and-gold scarf over a matching Minnesota jacket and shirt. The Louisville coach took advantage of a night off to travel north and support his son's new team, and he looked every bit the coach in his seat, clapping emphatically, intently glancing up at the scoreboard and wincing when plays went against the Gophers.
They didn't give him a whole lot to cheer in the first half, shooting 25 percent (4 for 16) from 3-point range and letting the Jackrabbits make it a game by failing to convert a bunch of open looks at the basket. SDSU is not the same without Nate Wolters, the program's all-time leading scorer, Summit League Player of the Year and third team Associated Press All-American who's now in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks.
This is a team with plenty of experience left from two NCAA tournament appearances and a total of 52 wins over the last two seasons, though, with three returning starters in Brayden Carlson, Dykstra and White. The Jackrabbits have played an exhausting schedule so far, with four losses in California (including Stanford), one at Texas Tech and this visit to Minnesota where they've never won in 17 matchups. They've played here nine straight years.
SDSU surged back from a 15-6 deficit to tie the game at 21 on a 3-pointer by Carlson with 7:36 left before the break. But the Gophers scored the final five points of the first half, including a baseline jumper by Hollins, who picked up where he left off after the intermission with a 3-pointer from the corner in the opening seconds to stretch the lead to 39-28.
Mathieu followed with a couple of 3-pointers of his own, and the Gophers quickly had a comfortable lead. Andre Hollins struggled to find his shot all night, but he finished with eight assists and didn't lose any aggressiveness. He used a spin dribble to set up a double-pump bank shot he sank from the edge of the lane as he fell to the court with 4:09 left. He picked up a foul, made the free throw and stretched the lead to 69-52.
Austin Hollins followed with a layup that put him over 1,000 career points, prompting a chant of his name from the crowd at the next stoppage of play.
With final exams looming, this was the last game for the Gophers before a 10-day break. They host Nebraska-Omaha on Dec. 20 and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Dec. 28 before beginning Big Ten play on Jan. 2 against Michigan. They've had their struggles with three new starters and a frontcourt thinned by graduation, ineligibility and injuries, but they came close to beating now-second-ranked Syracuse and have responded to the subsequent Maui Invitational loss to Arkansas with four wins in a row.