Gophers fall to Arkansas at Maui Invitational

Minnesota finished with 16 turnovers and were outscored 52-33 in the second half.

Jace Frederick

It was a rough 20 minutes of basketball for the Gophers.

Minnesota (5-2) allowed countless easy buckets and was outscored 52-33 in the second half en route to an 87-73 loss to Arkansas (4-1) on Tuesday night.

“We came out in the second half and they punched us first,” junior guard Andre Hollins said. “We didn’t play as hard as we should have.”

The Gophers led 40-35 at the break, but Arkansas opened the second half on a 10-0 run. And from there the Razorbacks used their full-court press to speed up Minnesota’s offense to an uncontrollable pace. That caused numerous Gophers mistakes after the break.

Senior guard Austin Hollins said in a press conference after the game that the pressure didn’t bother the Gophers. It certainly looked like it did.

Minnesota finished with 16 turnovers on the afternoon and by the end of the game struggled with some of the most-basic tasks like completing passes and staying on its feet.

“We just had a lot of careless turnovers,” Austin Hollins said. “It’s not something that we’re not used to.  It’s something we do every day because we’re a pressing team, as well.”

Even when the Gophers did find mild success on offense, Arkansas had a response. The Razorbacks pierced through the top of Minnesota’s zone defense and either kicked down low for a lay-up or passed it outside for an open three.

“Minnesota was playing a zone press … and if they’re going to press you, you’ve got to make people pay for it,” Arkansas head coach Mike Anderson said.

The Razorbacks did, shooting 54.5 percent from the field.

This particular loss wasn’t as encouraging as Monday’s defeat at the hands of No. 8 Syracuse.

“I think people gained a little respect for us yesterday with how hard we played,” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino said. “I thought we just backed down from [Arkansas].  We didn’t fight like we did last night.”

The Gophers built their first-half lead on the strength of their shooting.

Minnesota scolded the net by going 15 of 23 from the floor. Senior guard Malik Smith led the first-half attack, scoring 13 points, but Smith, like the rest of the offense, went ice-cold after the half. Smith finished with 15 points.

“He almost torched us,” Anderson said, “but we did a much better job in the second half of making him handle it and not necessarily just spotting up.”

The Gophers had four players finish in double-figures. Austin Hollins led the team in scoring with 17 points to go with six rebounds.

Minnesota will try to avoid a 0-3 Maui Invitational on Wednesday afternoon in a tilt with Chaminade.

“We want to win, so we’ve got to come out and play better than we did today,” Austin Hollins said. “We didn’t play to our full potential today [and] tomorrow we want to come out with a lot more effort, a lot more heart.”

Walker returns

Minnesota received reinforcements before the game with the return of junior center Mo Walker — who was suspended for the first six games of the season.

Walker didn’t provide much of a boost and looked like a man who hadn’t played since an exhibition game in the beginning of November.

“You can’t think you’re going to come in and be fresh,” Pitino said. “Hopefully he gets some more minutes tomorrow, and then by the time we get back [to Minnesota] we can really rely on him.”