Gophers top Wake Forest

Senior guard Andre Hollins led Minnesota with 27 points in the win.

by Jack Satzinger

One day before facing Wake Forest in Winston-Salem, N.C., on Tuesday night, Mo Walker lamented Minnesota’s tendency to play stretches of games conservatively.

“We just need to play more aggressive the whole 40 minutes,” the redshirt senior center said.

The message hasn’t yet reached the Gophers, though, as they pulled out a 84-69 victory against the Demon Deacons with spurts of inspired play and other moments that could leave some fans scratching their heads.

The inconsistency began from the opening tip when Walker turned the ball over on Minnesota’s first two possessions.

Walker redeemed himself midway through the first half, blocking back-to-back shots. His defensive effort helped spur a 7-0 Gophers run, which resulted in an early eight-point Minnesota lead.

But Wake Forest (4-4) erased the Gophers’ advantage after questionable shot selection followed consecutive turnovers by Andre Hollins and Joey King.

After closing out the first half with another run and subsequent lapse, Minnesota (5-2) blew the game open at the start of the second frame with a 16-3 run that gave it a 48-34 lead.

From that point on, the Demon Deacons struggled to reduce Minnesota’s lead and weren’t able to get closer than nine points.

“They were very calm; they were very poised. We got open looks,” head coach Richard Pitino told 1500 ESPN after the game. “We grew as a team today.”

King was crucial to Minnesota’s success from the beginning. The junior forward floated around the perimeter and was lethal, either making the extra pass to an open teammate or hitting one of his four 3-pointers.

Hollins was even more effective from behind the arc, nailing seven 3-pointers to lead Minnesota with 27 points. He was also active on the glass, collecting seven rebounds.

Rebounding has been one of Minnesota’s weaknesses early in the season.

Coming into Tuesday’s game, the Gophers were tied for 69th in the country in rebounding. But while facing Wake Forest — which was tied for 10th nationally in rebounding prior to the contest — the team won the rebound battle 37-31.

“I said, ‘Guys, I don’t want to sit there and do rebounding drills all the time. I don’t like doing that stuff. Let’s just figure this out,’” Pitino told 1500 ESPN. “And I thought against St. John’s we were playing really good defense; we just weren’t rebounding the ball.”

Walker tied Hollins for the team lead in rebounds with seven, which went along with his 10 points and three blocks.

Carlos Morris was a defensive menace, recording eight steals to go along with 15 points.

The junior also had six turnovers, punctuating the night of partial productivity from the Gophers — but also underwhelming performances during stretches.

“We’re really just working on finishing games and fighting through adversity,” senior guard DeAndre Mathieu said Monday.