Hollins helps Gophers squeak by Iowa
Tubby Smith said his Minnesota team had one foot in the grave on Sunday. Austin Hollins, however, made sure the Gophers weren't going to lose.
When Minnesota took the ball out of bounds with 13.6 seconds to play, the Gophers were in serious trouble. They trailed Iowa by two points and they were on the verge of being upset at home.
But Austin Hollins made the most of the final seconds at Williams Arena by hitting the game-winning 3-pointer and making a key defensive stop that allowed Minnesota to escape with a 62-59 victory over Iowa.
"We were able to claw our way out of it," Smith said. "I'm really impressed with how we came back."
While Austin Hollins entered the game having made only one of his previous nine 3-point shots, Smith didn't hesitate in drawing up a play for him in a crucial situation.
Austin Hollins came off of a double screen at the top of the key and sprinted to the right corner. Andre Hollins found him with the inbounds pass and Austin Hollins caught the ball, rose and swished the jumper that gave the Gophers a 60-59 lead.
"I saw I was open and I took the shot," Austin Hollins said.
Iowa still had a chance to win the game, but Austin Hollins forced Iowa guard Mike Gesell into a turnover in the final seconds. Minnesota then made two free throws to ensure it would avoid the upset loss and secure an important victory.
"His execution at the end of the game was perfect," Andre Hollins said.
Austin Hollins led Minnesota with 17 points, Andre Hollins added 14 and Joe Coleman finished with 12. Gesell led Iowa with 11 points, while Zach McCabe and Aaron White each scored 10.
The victory was the second in a row for the Gophers (17-5, 5-4 in the Big Ten) and allowed Minnesota to get back above .500 in Big Ten play at the midway point of the conference season.
Iowa (14-8, 3-6) has lost three of four heading for a Wednesday night game at Wisconsin.
"It was huge for us to get this win and keep the momentum going," Smith said.
Especially considering that the Gophers appeared on their way to a blowout in the game's opening minutes.
While the Gophers opened the game on a 14-2 run, Iowa scrapped their way back into the game. The Hawkeyes trailed by only one at halftime and took their first lead of the game, 32-31, when Adam Woodbury scored from the paint with 17:32 to play.
For most of the rest of the second half, it appeared as if the Hawkeyes were going to pull off the upset and win their third consecutive game against the Gophers.
Iowa stretched its lead to four points on three occasions. When Josh Oglesby completed a three-point play with 2:10 to play, the Hawkeyes led, 59-55. Iowa, however, wouldn't score again.
"We obviously blew an opportunity today," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "We had opportunities at the free throw line and on the break. We kept fighting. When you don't execute and miss free throws, it is hard."
The biggest opportunity came in the final minute. After Coleman closed the Iowa lead to 59-57, the Hawkeyes had a chance to score and make it a two possession game.
But instead of stretching the lead, Roy Devyn Marble threw the ball out of bounds, a turnover that gave Minnesota -- and Austin Hollins -- to complete the victory.
"After being swept by Iowa last year, this was huge," Austin Hollins said. "It shows what kind of team we are to come back and win this game. We didn't particularly play our best game, but we were able to stick together and win."
NOTES: The game against Iowa was important for the Gophers, as Minnesota next travels to Michigan State. The Gophers haven't won in East Lansing since 1997 and have lost 13 consecutive road games to the Spartans. ... Iowa nearly reached its season high for 3-point shots in a game, 25 in a victory over Northern Iowa. ... Melsahn Basabe got his second-consecutive start for Iowa. The 6-7 junior forward has been the Hawkeyes' leading rebounder over the last few weeks. ... Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio was in attendance at the game.
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