MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota coach Tubby Smith would like to see Rodney Williams shoot more.
It’s hard to argue – Williams is shooting a whopping 79.2 percent this season.
Williams hit 7 of 9 shots for 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds as the Gophers beat Tennessee State 72-43 Thursday night.
“I thought he passed up two shots tonight that he should’ve (taken),” Smith said. “But being the leader, he is taking on that responsibility. I think that’s why he’s just taking what’s there and he doesn’t have to go make something happen because we have other people who are capable of scoring. That takes a lot of pressure off him.”
Andre Hollins scored all 13 of his points in the first half, and Austin Hollins posted 10 of his 12 in the first 20 minutes as the Gophers (3-0) raced ahead with a pair of 9-0 runs in the first seven minutes and were never threatened by the Tigers.
Williams, who is averaging 14.3 points per game, tallied 10 of his 15 points in the second half as Minnesota adjusted to Tennessee State’s zone defense. The Gophers opened up the paint by shooting 6 for 16 from the 3-point line after hitting just 9 of 36 from beyond the arc in their first two games.
All that slowed Williams in the second half was a brief departure after getting elbowed above his right eye. The senior, who was called for a foul on the play, needed three stitches before returning to the court.
“That’s how it’s going to be – we’ve got a lot of weapons out there,” Williams said. “They are making easy shots for me and I’m just taking what the defense is giving me. I don’t need to be out there hunting for a shot.”
Williams also is leading a Gophers defense that has limited their three opponents to a combined 26.6 percent shooting. The Tigers (0-3) shot a season-low 23.7 percent from the floor – including 18.8 percent in the second half.
Kellen Thornton led Tennessee State with 11 points and 13 rebounds, while Jordan Cyphers and Robert Covington added 10 points each.
“You have to give (Minnesota) credit for going out and playing physical defense,” Tigers coach Travis Williams said. “I tried to tell my guys that we have to be ready to play because they are big, physical and strong.”
Minnesota held Tennessee State without a point for more than six minutes in the second half, scoring 10 straight over that span to race ahead 53-26 and put the game out of reach.
“We have most of the guys back from last year,” Austin Hollins said. “I think it helps knowing where your teammates are going to be and having been in that defense for a whole year and having that practice and coming in this season and not have to reteach everything.”
Andre Hollins more than doubled his season scoring output, hitting 3 of 8 shots, including a pair of 3s, after knocking down just 2 of 15 shots and combining for 10 points in the Gophers’ first two games.
Andre Hollins, Austin Hollins and Julian Welch all hit 3-pointers in Minnesota’s 10-0 run near the end of the first half to help build an 18-point halftime advantage that never dipped below 17 in the second half.
Minnesota senior Trevor Mbakwe, still making his way back from a torn ACL in his right knee, came off the bench the earliest he has this season but scored just five points in a season-low 10 minutes due to four fouls, including a technical. Mbakwe played 14 minutes in each of the Gophers’ first two games.
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