Both teams came into this Maui Invitational game undefeated, so it was no surprise that the Minnesota Golden Gophers were able to compete with the Syracuse Orange on Monday afternoon. The Golden Gophers came into the game shorthanded, but they rode the depth of their guards to a narrow 75-67 loss.
The lone big man who made a difference in the game for the Gophers was Elliott Eliason, but as he battled foul trouble early on, it was up to the six other Gophers who stepped on the court to carry the team. Yes, a total of just seven Golden Gophers played on Monday, but four of them made a difference on the perimeter.
The least suspecting star of the game was transfer Malik Smith, who came off the bench to hit 4-of-7 three pointers for a total of 16 points. Smith was known as a scorer at Florida International last year, but he will play primarily off the bench this year behind the team’s star, Andre Hollins.
The Hollins boys, made up of Andre and Austin Hollins (no relation), were able to score a total of 25 points. Combining that with the efforts of Smith and 5-foot-9 guard Deandre Mathieu, the four guards were responsible for 48 of the team’s 67 points. While that shows just how strong the guard play for the Gophers will be this season, it also highlights how weak they are inside.
Aside from Eliason, the Gophers haven’t had a single player shine in the post this season. But, hopefully the return of Maurice Walker against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Tuesday afternoon can make this a more well-rounded team. Even though the Gophers showed some March Madness magic in the tournament last year by upsetting the UCLA Bruins, they came into the 2013 season unranked, a clear mistake as they nearly upset the eighth-ranked Syracuse Orange.