MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — To Andre Hollins, every game is a matchup against a top-tier opponent.
Andre Hollins scored 18 points and Austin Hollins added 13 as Minnesota finished non-conference play with a 65-44 win over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Saturday night.
Even though it was a ragged win over an obscure smaller school, Andre Hollins said it was another step in preparation for the spotlight of Big Ten play.
“I come out every day like Texas Corpus Christi is Michigan St. That’s the mentality you need,” he said. “It’s easy to get up for the big games. It’s hard to get up for playing the Texas Corpus Christi’s and the lower division levels. That makes you better. I think that makes you more mentally tough.”
Minnesota (11-2) went on an 18-2 run early in the first half and remained in control despite stretches of sloppy play. The Gophers, who will host Michigan in the Big Ten opener on Thursday, shot 12 of 22 from the free-throw line and 37 percent from the field.
Minnesota missed six of its first eight 3-point attempts before Austin Hollins drained two in a row late in the first half.
With the student section at Williams Arena half full and the alumni band filling in as the regular band traveled back from the Gophers football bowl game in Houston, Minnesota tried to shake off the rust after playing just one game in the previous 17 days.
“Looking ahead to the Christmas break and then coming back is such a hard thing to do,” Gophers center Elliott Eliason said. “You need to get your focus back.”
Jeff Beverly led the Islanders (3-10) with 10 points and Rashawn Thomas added eight. Leading scorer John Jordan was held to five points on 2-of-7 shooting. Corpus Christi turned the ball over 18 times, shot 35 percent and made just one of 15 3-pointers.
“We just didn’t make shots tonight,” Beverly said. “As a whole, we played great D, we just didn’t hit our shots. We have to concentrate more in practice on our shooting, more focus. Our objective coming in was to play great defense.”
Even though a repeat performance likely won’t be good enough to beat Michigan next week, Gophers coach Richard Pitino was happy with what he saw in his team’s final non-conference tune-up.
“This was a bit of a trap game, looking ahead to the Big Ten,” Pitino said. “I thought our guys didn’t do that, so that was a testament to them.”
The Islanders trimmed Minnesota’s lead to nine on two different occasions and trailed 32-21 at halftime. Minnesota opened the second half on a 17-3 run and led 45-22 with 13:33 left to play after an Andre Hollins four-point play.
Sprawled across 240 acres on Ward Island near the Gulf of Mexico, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has one NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years and has only won six games each of the past two seasons.
After starting this season 3-2, the Islanders have now lost eight straight and are heading into their Southland conference opener on Thursday at Central Arkansas.
“We’ve got to find a way to steal some games early here on the road in conference play so we can get a little confidence,” Islanders coach Willis Wilson said. “This team is a win or two away from really kind of having a breakthrough. We are young but I do think we’re talented. We have the ability to be a really good club by the end of the year.”
Since the Gophers non-conference schedule was packed with smaller schools like Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, it’s difficult to forecast how they’ll fare in conference play. Whether they were closing out a win over Richmond on a 19-0 run or losing on consecutive nights to Syracuse and Arkansas, Pitino was pleased overall with what he’s seen from his team so far.
“Overall, I thought we had a really good non-conference,” he said. “It’s tough sometimes to get up for every single opponent. If you look back over the last 13 games, they didn’t lay an egg mentally. You see that a lot in college basketball. We’ll close that chapter and move on to the conference.”
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