Gophers fall to Northwestern in upset

The Wildcats contained Andre Hollins and were consistent from 3-point range Wednesday.

Jack Satzinger

Early in the second half of Minnesota’s game against Northwestern on Wednesday, the usually deafening Williams Arena crowd was dead silent.

That’s when the Wildcats coaching staff made some noise.

Every time Andre Hollins touched the ball, they’d yell “shooter!” in unison as defenders converged on the Gophers guard. The pressure was enough to limit Hollins for the majority of the game and send Minnesota to a 72-66 loss.

“We just tried our best to try to find him,” Northwestern head coach Chris Collins said of Hollins. “Make him shoot a little deeper.”

While Hollins, who finished with 12 points, struggled to score until the game’s final minutes, Northwestern (12-14, 3-10 Big Ten) was red hot from 3-point range all night.

The Wildcats converted 15-of-32 3-pointers. Minnesota gave up 18 3-pointers in a 90-71 loss at Indiana on Sunday.

“They hit some tough, tough threes,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “If you give up 18 threes last game and then 15 in this one, you’re not going to win.”

Minnesota’s matchup zone defense was a major driving force behind victories against Purdue and Iowa earlier this month, neutralizing those teams’ interior size. But the Gophers’ last two opponents have exploited the zone’s weak point — perimeter defense.

Hollins, who has now scored double-digit points in nine consecutive games, hit two 3-pointers in the game’s final minutes to make his stat line look better. But it was clear that Wednesday wasn’t his night.

After a first half where he went scoreless, Hollins dribbled up the floor midway through the second period and crossed the ball between his legs.

It ricocheted off his heel and went out of bounds.

The score was tied coming out of halftime, but the Wildcats took the lead with about 16 minutes remaining and didn’t look back.

Freshman guard Nate Mason had an impressive start to the season but struggled for the better part of the last month. He returned to his previous form in the loss, tallying a team-high 15 points off 5-for-10 shooting.

Joey King also bounced back after going 31 minutes at Indiana with zero rebounds. The junior forward recorded 12 points and five rebounds.

But redshirt senior center Mo Walker struggled against 7-footer Alex Olah and tallied only six points.

“I’ve always thought he was a good player,” Pitino said of Olah. “Certainly he was very effective tonight. Good size.”

After a Mason turnover late in the game, the Williams Arena crowd fell silent again. The Wildcats sprinted down the court on a fast break before Collins implored them to slow down and take more time off the clock.

When the game was over a few minutes later and Hollins had fouled out, the devastated Gophers couldn’t believe they’d lost to lowly Northwestern at home for the second straight year.

“[Pitino] was really, really upset that we didn’t have any heart,” senior guard DeAndre Mathieu said. “We needed this.”