Gophers hold on to beat Purdue

Richard Pitino earned the first Big Ten win of his career.

Jace Frederick

Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins didn’t look like themselves in the Gophers conference-opening loss to Michigan as the two shot a combined 4 for 19 from the field for 14 points.

They responded on Sunday.

Austin Hollins finished with 18 points and nine rebounds and Andre Hollins chipped in 17 points and five assists to lead Minnesota to a 82-79 win over Purdue at Williams Arena.

“We didn’t take necessarily the best shots [on Thursday]. … Coach said we were taking ridiculous shots,” Andre Hollins said. “We just had to focus on taking the best shots for the team and that’s the result today.”

Andre Hollins has talked all season about needing to be aggressive and getting to the interior.

He accomplished his mission on Sunday attempting 11 free-throws before even taking a field-goal attempt.

“Just trying to continue to attack, get to the rim, get the other team into foul trouble,” he said.

The Michigan game was just the second time all season Austin Hollins was held below double-digits. He had that in the first half Sunday.

Hollins scored 13 of his 18 points in the first 20 minutes of the game.

“It was huge,” senior guard Malik Smith said of the early production from the senior captain. “We’re not going to be a good team without Austin being a great scoring option for us. … He came out firing today.”

The Gophers needed the early production from their stars as fellow guards DeAndre Mathieu and Smith played just five and six minutes before the break due to foul trouble.

The Gophers carried a 42-35 lead into the break.

Minnesota expanded the lead to as big as 60-41 on the strength of a 18-6 run.

Mathieu and Smith were major players in the second half after limited first half minutes. The duo combined for 19 points in the final 20 minutes.

“I tried to tell them … ‘listen you didn’t play a lot in the first half, don’t try to make it up all at once,’” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said. “DeAndre did some really good things. I was really tough on him after last game. He rebounded great.”

But the Gophers struggled to close out Purdue down the stretch. The Boilermakers used countless offensive rebounds to mount a furious comeback.

Minnesota didn’t secure the win until a Boilermaker half-court heave at the buzzer fell short.

“It’s pretty much a learning experience,” Smith said about the inability to close the game. “We’ll try not to do that in the future.”

But Pitino said the first 35 minutes of the game were “absolutely” the best the Gophers played all year — specifically offensively, where Minnesota shot 52.2 percent for the game.

“To do that versus a very good team, we’ve got to be proud,” he said.

The defense wasn’t bad either, mainly thanks to the Gophers anchor down low. Junior center Elliott Eliason finished with six blocks to go with eight points and seven rebounds. He established an inside presence while staying out of foul trouble — something he’s struggled with in the past.

“I think it was huge,” Eliason said. “[Blocking shoots] is all about knowing when to be aggressive, and you just have to pick your spot and knowing when to wall up when you need to.”

Regardless of the final score, the victory kept the Gophers out of what would have been a daunting 0-2 conference hole heading into a road test versus Penn State on Wednesday.

“A win’s a win,” Eliason said.