MINNEAPOLIS Jack Taylor, he is not. But Gophers sophomore guard Andre Hollins turned some heads last week when he scored 41 points against Memphis in a Minnesota victory.
Hollins' career game came two days after Taylor grabbed national headlines by scoring an NCAA record 138 points for Division III Grinnell. No one is expecting either player to repeat those impressive performances, but Hollins showed Minnesota fans that he can be another scoring threat on the 21st-ranked Gophers.
"We knew he could score the ball," said senior forward Rodney Williams. "But I don't think anybody was ready for a 41-point outburst."
In that game against Memphis in the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas, Hollins was 12-for-16 from the floor, a perfect 5-for-5 from 3-point range and 12-of-13 from the free throw line. Williams was the only other Gopher to score in double figures with 13 points. Hollins accounted for nearly half of his team's scoring in their 84-75 win.
Adding to the storyline was that Hollins' big night came against some familiar faces. He grew up in Memphis and knew several players on the Tigers roster.
"Obviously that was one of those games where the stars were aligned for him," said Gophers head coach Tubby Smith. "He was playing against his hometown team. He knew three of those players well. He knew how to get open and when to get open, and he was just pumped up. But he's capable of having those types of nights when it's needed."
Hollins demonstrated his scoring touch late in his freshman season as he helped the Gophers advanced to the NIT Championship game against Stanford. He averaged 17.8 points in Minnesota's first four games of the tournament before being held to just four points in the championship game.
After a slow start in the Gophers' first two games, Hollins is now the team's second-leading scorer, averaging 13.8 points per game. The confidence in his ability to score that he gained late during last year has carried over into Hollins' sophomore campaign.
"It was a big confidence boost at the end of the season last year," he said. "I just had to start playing basketball. Being confident, I think that's one of the qualities a point guard is supposed to have is confidence. That's what I'd like to think I have right now."
One thing Hollins and the entire Gophers team, for that matter continues to work on is taking care of the ball. He's averaging 2.5 turnovers per game, up slightly from last year. As a team, Minnesota is turning the ball over 16 times a game, a number the Gophers know will have to improve quickly with just two non-conference games remaining on the schedule.
It'll start with Hollins.
"We're trying to take care of the ball," he said. "That's one thing we have to do a great job of because when the Big Ten starts, every possession matters."
Hollins' 41-point game showed he's a capable scoring threat to compliment Williams (and, eventually, senior forward Trevor Mbakwe when he's up to full speed after recovering from knee surgery). But the sophomore from Memphis can do more than just score. He's currently leading the Gophers in assists with 4.1 per game. He's third in minutes per game with 28.3, behind only Williams and junior Austin Hollins.
"He understands it's a team sport, and the way we're going to win is to share the basketball, and that's his job as a point guard," Smith said. "He's wanting to be a leader, a floor general, take care of the ball better. He's still a work in progress, but he's gotten a lot better."
Hollins knows he won't put up big offensive numbers every night. One game after dropping 41 points on Memphis, Hollins was held to just eight points on 1-of-8 shooting. But he hit three big free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining to help the Gophers topple Stanford 66-63.
His numbers weren't as gaudy as they were one night earlier, but that didn't matter to Hollins.
"Some games, I might not score and have 10 assists. It's just how the game's going," he said. "As long as we win, I don't care what my stat line's like."
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