Gophers lose again despite Hollins’ 17

Minnesota dropped to 2-7 in conference play after a loss to the Nittany Lions.

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins dribbles past Rutgers guard Mike Williams in the second half at Williams Arena on Jan. 17.

Daily File Photo, Holly Peterson

Minnesota guard Andre Hollins dribbles past Rutgers guard Mike Williams in the second half at Williams Arena on Jan. 17.

Jack Satzinger

When Andre Hollins was slumping early on in Big Ten play as the Gophers started 0-5, he had to cope with a sobering fact.

“I wasn’t helping them win,” he said Saturday.

Now, he’s the main reason Minnesota has been marginally successful in its past few games.

Hollins came into Minnesota’s game at Penn State on Wednesday, averaging 26.7 points per contest over a three-game span. The senior guard was hot from the field again, netting a game-high 17 points on 60 percent shooting, but  Minnesota (13-9, 2-7 Big Ten) still lost 63-58 to the Nittany Lions.

“He’s done so many things intangible-wise, and that’s why I’ve always rolled with him,” head coach Richard Pitino said earlier this week.

While Hollins continued his hot streak, his teammates didn’t follow the lead.

Since DeAndre Mathieu failed to get a game-tying shot off against Iowa earlier this month, he hasn’t scored in double figures.

The Gophers point guard attacked the basket on two fast breaks in the first half, but he missed each layup. He went 1-for-7 from the field Wednesday for just three points.

After the Gophers beat Illinois last Saturday, Mathieu said being moved out of the starting lineup in favor of freshman Nate Mason for a few games didn’t bother him.

“I was a walk-on for a long time. I was used to that. I just wanted to help the team win,” Mathieu said Saturday. “Nate being in the starting lineup was cool with me.”

Mo Walker was a spark in Minnesota’s win against Illinois last Saturday, tallying a career-high 13 rebounds, but he was inconsistent Wednesday. He started the game out on a high note with a basket on the first possession of the game and a block less than a minute later.

But as the game progressed, he was blocked multiple times and less effective on the glass than in his previous performance, finishing with just four rebounds.

“I don’t think [the season has] worn on me, but it is an adjustment starting and getting more minutes. I know teams are going to game plan for me a lot more,” Walker said Tuesday.

For much of the season, the young Mason has been a bright spot despite some of the Gophers’ struggles. But he only recorded five points Wednesday, punctuating arguably the worst shooting stretch of his short career.

Mason is 7-for-30 from the field in his past four contests. Starting small forward Carlos Morris didn’t miss a field goal in Minnesota’s last game, but he looked out of control on a few drives to the basket where he threw the ball away Wednesday.

Elliott Eliason and Charles Buggs were both effective for the Gophers, combining for 12 points and 10 rebounds and providing some much-needed energy off the bench.

Minnesota held Penn State’s leading scorer, D.J. Newbill, to 12 points, well below his season scoring average.

But even though the Gophers put together a second-half run to erase a 10-point halftime deficit, late turnovers from Hollins and Walker put the stamp on another close conference loss.

“It’s a constant climb, you know, every night we’re going up against opponents that can beat us,” Walker said Tuesday. “We’ve just got to prepare one game at a time and keep building.”