Gophers hope guards step up their games
MINNEAPOLIS - Seniors Andre Hollins, DeAndre Mathieu, Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason have been sending group text messages to each other since the summer, mostly about how to approach their final season on Minnesota's basketball team.
MINNEAPOLIS – Seniors Andre Hollins, DeAndre Mathieu, Mo Walker and Elliott Eliason have been sending group text messages to each other since the summer, mostly about how to approach their final season on Minnesota’s basketball team.
Lately, however, those texts have been about the Gophers’ 0-2 start in Big Ten Conference play.
Minnesota (11-4) will try to win its first conference game of the season today when it plays host to
No. 22 Ohio State (12-3) at Williams Arena.
Backcourt mates Hollins and Mathieu, expected to be a strength this season, are experiencing the biggest slumps of their careers, but there has been a sense of urgency for all the seniors since Saturday’s 70-58 loss at Maryland.
“We had a group text with the seniors; we got our minds right,” Hollins said. “We can’t blow opportunities because this is our last go-around.”
If the Gophers want to get back on track, they need Mathieu and Hollins to get out of a deep funk. The senior backcourt was supposed to be one of the Big Ten’s best. Instead, they’ve played like the worst.
“They know what they need to do,” said Walker, who had his first career double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds Saturday. “They’re both senior guys. They’ve been on the road. They’ve been at home. They know how the conference is. So, I’m sure they’ll both bounce back and have a strong game at home.”
Mathieu was averaging nearly 10 points, seven assists and three steals through the first 13 games. But he averaged 7.5 points, one assist and one steal in losses at Purdue and Maryland. The 5-foot-9 point guard went from first to worst in the Big Ten in assist-to-turnover ratio, from plus-3.9 to minus-7.
Coach Richard Pitino said Mathieu is overpenetrating.
“A lot of it is forcing it and going back to old bad habits; not being very smart with my decision making,” Mathieu said. “If you look at it, in the nonconference we were getting a lot of fastbreaks, a lot of pitch aheads and easy looks. I’m not getting as many of those opportunities to get those easy assists that I was getting. Maybe if we get more turnovers, force more fastbreaks, get out on the run more, then things will change.”
Hollins’ offensive woes started before the Big Ten season. He’s averaging just 6.5 points and shooting 30 percent from the field (10 of 33) and 13 percent from 3-point range
(2 of 15) in his past four games, and just 4.5 points in two Big Ten games.
Hollins averaged 14.6 points in the Gophers’ first 11 games.
Not since his freshman season has Hollins not been the team’s leading scorer. He now ranks third on the team behind Carlos Morris (13.1) and Walker (12.5) overall.