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Men's basketball: Gophers fall to Purdue in 3OT

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By Marcus R. Fuller

St. Paul Pioneer Press

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — The Gophers got their leading scorer back Wednesday, but they needed a lot more than Andre Hollins to pull out a marathon of a game against Purdue.

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The University of Minnesota’s junior guard returned to the lineup after a two-game absence with a sprained left ankle, but Hollins’ early spark wasn’t enough in a 77-74 triple overtime loss against the Boilermakers at Mackey Arena.

Purdue’s A.J. Hammons scored a layup with 58 seconds left in triple overtime to give his team the go-ahead basket.

Hollins missed two free throws with 1.7 seconds left in triple overtime, but the Gophers (15-8, 4-6) had already squandered several opportunities to take the lead after trailing 75-74 in the final period.

It was another disappointing ending and third straight loss for first-year Minnesota coach Richard Pitino’s team.

With his fellow Memphis native back alongside him, senior guard Austin Hollins had a bounce in his step for most of the game. He nailed a buzzer-beating jumper to send the game into overtime tied 60-60.

Austin Hollins finished with 14 points and four steals, but he went cold in the overtimes.

Andre Hollins also had just eight points on 3 for 14 shooting Wednesday.

Junior Mo Walker and sophomore Joey King had 17 and 14 points off the bench for Minnesota.

The Gophers seemed fine without Andre Hollins after he suffered the injury 16 seconds into the Jan. 22 upset against Wisconsin at Williams Arena.

Hollins’ emotionally charged teammates took care of the Badgers with clutch performances from point guard DeAndre Mathieu and backup center Mo Walker.

Walker and Mathieu both missed last-second layups to seal Saturday’s home loss against Northwestern. That led to Pitino having a heart-to-heart talk with his players Sunday about not succumbing to the pressure of trying to make the NCAA tournament.

But that pressure is mounting now with the Gophers trying to keep from a February collapse that seemed to happen annually under former coach Tubby Smith.

Pitino had something up his sleeve to try to turn things around this week. He kept quiet about Andre Hollins getting close to return.

It happened a game earlier than expected Wednesday, but Hollins looked pretty comfortable in the first half.

He had his lower left leg in a sleeve but showed no signs of being hampered early with a jump shot less than five minutes into the game.

Hollins, who averaged a team-best 15.4 points entering the game, clearly was a step slower than normal. But he wasn’t taking it easy.

Mathieu got banged up early in the first half, so Hollins had to take over at point guard for several minutes. Hollins had a couple of turnovers, but he remained aggressive with five points on 2 for 6 shooting in the first half.

The Gophers didn’t appear to be fully adjusted offensively to having their captain back, but they picked up the defense by forcing nine turnovers in the first half.

Walker also picked up where he left off with a 14-point game against Northwestern. The 6-foot-10 junior had eight points in the first half to keep Minnesota within 29-28 at halftime.

In the second half, the Boilermakers used a 9-1 run to take a 40-36 lead after eight straight points from Kendall Stephens, including a couple of three-pointers.

But Hollins’ second three-pointer of the game followed by a layup from Mathieu gave Minnesota a 46-45 lead with under 10 minutes left.

Pitino stressed the importance of getting Hollins back following back-to-back close losses, including at Nebraska despite Malik Smith’s 29 points and eight three-pointers.

Smith struggled since that career game replacing Hollins. Mathieu, who had nine turnovers against the Cornhuskers, hasn’t handled the ball well since Hollins’ injury.

The junior college transfer had seven turnovers Wednesday, but he came alive offensively with 13 of his 15 points in the second half and overtime.

Mathieu’s four free throws answered Purdue’s run to tie it at 64-65 after the first overtime.

Purdue’s 7-footer, Hammons, was too difficult to handle down low for Elliott Eliason and Walker. He finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds and six blocks.

Hammons hit two free throws to give his team a 60-58 lead with 31.7 seconds left in regulation.

Terone Johnson had a chance to seal the win, but he missed his third and fourth straight free throws to set up the game-tying shot by Austin Hollins.

Andre Hollins, who had 17 points in a 82-79 win Jan. 5 against Purdue at home, could be a bit healthier Saturday against Indiana.

The Gophers proved they don’t also have to rely on Hollins for plays, but they might need more from him to get back on track.

The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.

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