The Minnesota Golden Gophers lost for the sixth time in eight games on Sunday, this time losing at home to Illinois 57-53. The team’s offensive ineptitude continued, as they failed to score 60 points for the fourth time in their last six games and the Illini’s perimeter shooting (11-for-23 on three-pointers) was too much to overcome.
There was one bright spot for Minnesota, as guard Austin Hollins had a team-high 16 points along with four steals and three rebounds. That pushed the junior’s scoring average to 11.2 points per game this season, and he now has at least 13 points (16.3 points per game) in all six of the team’s conference home games. Two of Hollins’ best moments this season have come at home during Big Ten play, including a season-high 21 points against Michigan on January 17 and a game-winning shot against Iowa on February 3.
But Hollins has struggled to find consistency, with just one double-figure scoring game (Indiana on January 12) and a 7.0 points per game average in five road games thus far during conference play. As expected, his shooting percentages from the floor (53.8 percent at home, 25.6 percent on the road) and three-point range (44.4 percent at home, 27.3 percent on the road) have dropped off significantly on the road during Big Ten play.
Hollins has been a good barometer for the Golden Gophers, as the team’s struggles on the road in-conference (1-4 record) have mirrored his own. With their record currently sitting at 17-7, the team needs to string together some wins down the stretch to get off the NCAA Tournament bubble and earn a decent seed. Plenty of players that have struggled lately will have to play better to make that happen, and I think Hollins will have to be a key part of that effort overall. For Minnesota to maintain any hope for a postseason run, he will have to become a consistent force as a perimeter shooter and scorer for a team that desperately needs more in both areas.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.