More than a dozen games into the season, it’s become clear that the Minnesota Gophers will only go as far as Andre and Austin Hollins will take them.
The senior and junior guards, respectively, are averaging more than 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists per game for the 13-3 Gophers, but on Wednesday night against a mediocre Penn State squad, the duo combined for only 18 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. While Minnesota managed to squeak out a 68-65 victory for their second straight Big Ten win, it was a performance they hope to not repeat anytime soon.
With Austin having a poor night, shooting 1-of-5, the junior transfer DeAndre Mathieu stepped up in the void to contribute 16 points and three steals to lead the Gophers. Head coach Richard Pitino rode Mathieu to the finish line, playing him 35 minutes.
For Minnesota, all three of their Big Ten conference games have been decided by exactly three points, with their only loss coming at the hands of Michigan at Williams Arena in the conference season opener. In the loss to the Wolverines, Austin also had a terrible night, shooting 1-of-9 for two points, including going 0-for-6 from beyond the three point line.
If Austin continues to be a streaky scorer as the Gophers get deeper into conference play, Minnesota will have little to no chance of staying afloat in the conference stacked with top 25 teams.
At 2-1 in the conference, the Gophers are heading into four-game, two-week stretch against ranked opponents, starting with No. 5 Michigan State on Friday in East Lansing. From there, Minnesota will host No. 3 Ohio State, then travel to Iowa City to face the No. 20 Hawkeyes, before returning to Williams Arena to play No. 4 Wisconsin on Jan. 22.
Penn State had no production from their top player
The Nittany Lion’s top scorer, D.J. Newbill, did not score after fouling out in 14 minutes of action. The junior guard is averaging 18 points and more than five rebounds per contest. Penn State’s second leading scorer, Tim Frazier, also fouled out late in the second half. He added 20 points, five rebounds, eight assists while shooting 6-of-7 before being forced to sit.