- Jason King
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NASSAU, Bahamas -- When Andre Hollins returns to his native Memphis next month for Christmas, the Minnesota guard may want to wear a disguise.
“I don’t know how accepted I’ll be,” Hollins said. “I may have made a few people mad.”
Hollins stuck it to his hometown school in grand fashion Friday, scoring a career-high 41 points to lead the Gophers to an 84-75 victory over No. 19 Memphis in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Hollins connected on 12 of his 16 field goal attempts and made all five of his shots from 3-point range. The point total was the most by a Minnesota player since 1971.
“He put on a great display,” Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. “Thank goodness he had the game he had. We needed every point.”
Memphis coach Josh Pastner had attempted to sign Hollins, but it was a tough sell because the Tigers already had a point guard in Joe Jackson, who had teamed with Hollins at White Station High School. Jackson, who is one year older than Hollins, was starting for the Tigers as a freshman, so Hollins opted for Minnesota.
“It was hard,” Hollins said. “It would’ve been nice to play in front of my friends and family. I was definitely considering Memphis, but I’m glad I made the right choice by going to Minnesota.”
Hollins, though, said he felt as if he were back home Friday. Along with being Jackson's former teammate, Hollins competed against Tigers forwards Shaq Goodwin and Adonis Thomas, who went to rival high schools. And he began playing AAU ball with Memphis guard Chris Crawford when he was 9.
“There was no trash-talking,” Jackson said. “We respect each other too much. It was a great opportunity to play against these guys. They’re a great bunch of guys. I was definitely comfortable playing against them, but I knew it was going to be hard.”
But Hollins made it look easy.
He had 24 points to spark Memphis to a 47-42 halftime lead. The Tigers took a 68-67 lead on D.J. Stephens’ 3-pointer with 6:10 remaining, but the Gophers battled back and won the game handily thanks to some key free throws down the stretch by Hollins, who was 12-of-13 from the foul stripe.
He even scored on an uncharacteristic dunk as the final seconds ticked away.
“Dre stepped up in a big way today,” Minnesota forward Rodney Williams said. “It was pretty much, ‘Give Dre the ball and see what happens.’ ”
Smith said he didn’t have any trouble instructing his players to feed the ball to Hollins.
“When you’re shooting like that and you’ve got the hot hand ... he was feeling it,” Smith said. “We want him to take those shots. He’s really evolving into a complete player.
“We know Dre can shoot the ball, but his floor leadership is really improving. Running a team, understanding the flow of the game, the tempo of the game, all of the things you have to do as a point guard.”
Thrilled as he was with his performance, Hollins is competing in the Battle 4 Atlantis with a heavy heart. His grandmother passed away Nov. 17, and the funeral was Wednesday. Hollins was unable to attend because he was already with the Gophers in the Bahamas.
“I did that for her,” Hollins said. “I know she’s shining down on me.”
Hollins’ mother, Donna, made the trip to watch her son compete this weekend. She had tears in her eyes as she rushed up to hug her son when he left his postgame news conference.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” Hollins said. “It’s going to be one of the top memories of my life.”
Here are a few other thoughts from Friday’s Memphis-Minnesota game:
Star of the game: Hollins is the obvious answer, but Rodney Williams also came up huge. Williams scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds and had three blocks and three assists in 25 minutes. He hit a huge basket at 5:56 of the second half to put the Gophers up 69-68. Memphis had taken the lead seconds earlier, but Williams’ basket thwarted the Tigers’ momentum.
Key stat: Minnesota went 28-of-33 from the free throw line and hit 10 in a row at one key point down the stretch. Memphis was just 14-of-22 and missed five straight when the game was still close. Two of those five misses came on the front end of one-and-one opportunities.
Other observations: Memphis coach Josh Pastner is clearly frustrated with junior point guard Joe Jackson. Less than 24 hours after committing seven turnovers in just 20 minutes and fouling out against VCU, Jackson turned in another clunker Friday. He played just seven minutes in the first half -- he had two turnovers -- and never got off the bench after halftime.
Pastner has invested a lot in Jackson the past few seasons. He’s waited patiently for Jackson to develop consistency and has supported him despite his enigmatic nature. Memphis has missed out on other point guard recruits -- Hollins being one of them -- who believed Jackson was embedded as the starter. Pastner, though, seems to have finally had enough and is trying to deliver a message.
“He’s my point guard,” Pastner said Thursday, “he’s the quarterback, I need him, the team needs him and he’s good enough. He’s a high-level guy. He’s got to have tremendous confidence. Unfortunately, the last (three) games, he hasn’t played as well.”
Hollins was asked what kind of advice he’d give his former high school teammate.
“I’d just tell him to keep his head up and start playing basketball like Joe Jackson,” Hollins said. “We know he’s a great player. He taught me a lot. Some of my game today reflected on what he’s taught me.”
Miscellaneous: Trevor Mbakwe scored only five points, but he’s still showing more signs of getting back on track. The forward snared eight rebounds in just 20 minutes, including three on the offensive end. ... Gophers coach Tubby Smith said he was pleased with the spark Andre Ingram (six points and three rebounds in 15 minutes) provided off the bench. ... Junior college transfer Geron Johnson made his debut for Memphis after missing the first three games because of a suspension. He scored just four points in 22 minutes and had three turnovers. ... D.J. Stephens has really stepped up his game for the Tigers. He had 15 points and seven rebounds. There aren’t many players in college basketball who can leap as high as Stephens, who gets a lot of easy baskets on putbacks and tip-ins. ... Shaq Goodwin is playing at a high level for a freshman. He’s adapted quickly. The only knock on him -- and it’s a significant one -- is that he’s missing too many layups. Most times, though, he’s able to rebound his own miss and score anyway. ... Memphis needs to get more out of veteran Chris Crawford, who had a terrible performance Friday. Crawford had just two points before burying a meaningless 3-pointer with four seconds remaining. He also missed the front end of one-and-one situations on two occasions, once when the Tigers trailed 67-65 and once when they were down 69-68.
Up next: Minnesota advances to the fifth-place game and will play Stanford. Memphis will take on Northern Iowa in the seventh-place game.