Column: Gophers need to find Hollins’ partner in crime over break

Hollins averaged more than 21 points per game over a five-game span.

David Nelson

Andre Hollins sat in Minnesota’s locker room with a smile draped across his face as he took questions from the media following the Gophers’ third conference victory of the season on Saturday.

And why shouldn’t he be smiling?

Hollins has performed phenomenally over the past five contests — scoring more than 21 points per game.

“He does a lot of things that don’t show up on the stat sheet when it comes to scoring,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “He’s the quiet heart and soul of our team.”

The Gophers won three of their Big Ten games over that five-game stretch. But Saturday’s victory offered further proof that if Minnesota wants to turn its season around, more players will have to produce than just Hollins.

Redshirt senior Mo Walker looked downright unstoppable in the paint against Nebraska, pushing around the Cornhuskers’ big men en route to scoring 19 points.

“I just tried to be aggressive,” Walker said. “My teammates were finding me down low, and I was pretty efficient.”

Hollins didn’t get such help last week when Minnesota played Penn State, losing 63-58.

The senior put up 17 points against the Nittany Lions, but he was the only member of the Gophers’ roster to score in double figures.

In short, Hollins cannot be the only player to produce for the Gophers game-after-game if the team expects to make any progress in saving its season.

Someone else needs to step up.

It could be senior DeAndre Mathieu, whose play has drastically regressed since last season.

Mathieu proved to be instrumental to the Gophers’ success during his first year, but his scoring has decreased from 12 points per game to 8.3 this season.

It even reached the point where Pitino temporarily benched the senior in favor of freshman Nate Mason. Mathieu is averaging less than seven points per contest in Big Ten play.

Maybe it’s Walker who gets the Gophers over the hump, or perhaps junior Joey King gets on a hot streak.

Either way, Minnesota has a long break — until Purdue comes to town this Saturday — to decide who will play the pivotal role of Hollins’ sidekick.

Pitino told reporters following Saturday’s game that the team is tired of losing the way it has been.

“I’ve never seen so many close loses in a duration of seven games,” Pitino said. “That’s trying [on a team].”

The best way to remedy the situation is for someone else to get hot.

Hollins can’t do this on his own, and the Penn State and Nebraska matchups provided perfect examples of that.