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Saturday, March 23, 2013
Hollins looks for new high vs. No. 3 Florida

By Carter Strickland

AUSTIN, Texas -- In the middle of bemoaning his own and his team's fate, UCLA's Ben Howland had to stop and marvel at the actions of his team's most recent and victorious foe, Andre Hollins.

"And then Hollins, and I should have mentioned him in my opening statement, played great," Howland said. "Their point guard was unbelievable tonight. Just how effective he was. Shooting the ball and pulling up."

Andre Hollins
Andre Hollins scored 28 points, double his season average, in Minnesota's win against UCLA.
Over and over again, Hollins was doing just that.

"My teammates believe in me, and they know I can make the shot," Hollins said.

Well, now everybody else does, too. Really, had it just been Hollins' shooting, maybe UCLA could have handled him and the Gophers. But aside from Hollins' 28 points -- 5-of-8 on 3s -- he had nine rebounds and five assists against what was a longer, more athletic team. The 28 was double his season average. (He did have a career-high 41 against Memphis in November.) The nine rebounds was more than twice his season average (3.7) and, just like everything else, the assists were above his season average, as well (3.5).

"Growing up as a little kid, you just dream of these moments," Hollins said.

It's one thing to dream of them, it is quite another to seize them.

Hollins was able to do just that, and, because of it, propel a team that had lost 11 of 16 with a slightly embattled coach into the round of 32.

"When he gets going and gets into a rhythm, he is a very, very difficult guy to stop," said Florida coach Billy Donovan.

All that is great, but Hollins and Minnesota have to turn around and face Florida. Although the team from La-La Land played with exactly that attitude, Donovan and Florida have a tinge more ferocity in their makeup. That was evident when the Gators held the nation's highest-scoring team, Northwestern State, to 34 points below its average in the teams' game Friday night. (By the way, UCLA allowed Minnesota to score 15 points more than its season average.)

"I'm pretty familiar with Billy Donovan; we played quite a few games against each other when I was at Kentucky," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.

Thing was, back then, Smith had Kentucky talent -- plus a smidge of talent at Georgia one year -- and used it to go 16-8 against Donovan in the SEC. Now it's Donovan with the superior talent and, more specifically, a shutdown defensive talent in Scottie Wilbekin, who will be wrapped all over Hollins.

"He has three qualities that enable him to be very, very good," Donovan said of Wilbekin. "First, he has great feet. The second thing is he is a physical defender. He can go through, around and off screens very well. Third, he is a guy that is a tough-minded defender, maybe more so than any guy I have coached. He values that."

So does Hollins.

"I just let my teammates get in the flow first of all, feeding off them, and make sure that I am playing well defensively first of all, and let that feed over to my offensive game," Hollins said.

It's also not as if Hollins has been going against stiffs all year. The Big Ten does feature Aaron Craft. The Ohio State point guard is considered one of the top defenders in the country.

"You have to be a little bit more decisive with your moves and how you are going to attack, be a little bit more secure with the ball," Hollins said of playing against players such as Craft.

Hollins had only 11 points on 30 percent shooting with two turnovers against one assist in a 26-point loss to Ohio State. So maybe that isn't the best memory for him to draw on. Instead, Hollins might want to go with his most recent memory and hope it doesn't fade.

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