Gopher Bench Plus Austin Hollins Defeat Illini in Overtime

So many great stories from this game that it is hard to know what to lead with. This was a huge win for the team and it's quest to make the NCAA Tournament. We may have finally seen the coming out party of Andre Hollins just a couple weeks after Joe Coleman graduated from being a freshman. But Austin Hollins single-handedly erasing a four point deficit (by scoring six points) with under 30 seconds to force overtime was about as exciting as it gets.

Fortunately when Hollins decided to take it to the rim with under 15 seconds, Meyers Leonard decided to foul him.

"He (Hollins) saw an opening and took it. He attacked the basket and attacked the rim. It came down to making those free throws and he did. The play originally was for him to take the three but he saw something different and that’s a part of the game of basketball."

Bruce Weber wasn't as impressed and it sounds like he was a little whiny.

"Right at the end, we switched out, and Austin Hollins goes to the basket. I’m thinking, 'Thank you,' and he goes to the basket and throws up a tough shot, and our kid gets called for a bump. It was a difficult basket, a difficult game to deal with. You battle the whole game, and you’re physical, and you get a little bump at the end, but he made the call and you gotta live with it, and we should have done better at other parts of the game."

Personally there were some blatant non-calls throughout the game. And that final play wasn't a body foul but Leonard clearly had his arms down and fouled Hollins.

That last play shouldn't really be the focus as there were some outstanding dunks, blocks and assists in this game. The problem for the BTN and ESPN tonight wasn't finding clips for the highlight real. Chip Armelin's assist to Oto Oseinicks on a first half two-on-one literally got me out of my seat. And Elliott Eliason's block of Meyer's Leonard got the Illini center's attention and was a momentum changer. And Andre Hollins was the Gopher floor leader in a crucial overtime for his team. And we know that Rodney Williams is an incredible dunker, but he had two incredible ones tonight.

Notice that most of these highlights were all bench players. In total the bench scored 39 of the 77 Minnesota points led by Chip Armelin's 14 points, 7 rebounds and Andre Hollins's 12. Elliott Eliason also played 25 critical minutes providing 5 points and 5 rebounds. This team is really coming together and getting better as the season is inching towards the one and done stage. I

At times this game was sloppy (30 total turnovers), it was poorly officiated, the Gophers blew a 10-point half time lead and I'm not sure which was worse the Gopher free throw shooting (63.6%) or the Illini three-point shooting (14.3%). But the late-game drama trumped all of it.

The game was exciting but ultimately this was another huge win for the Gophers and their quest for nine Big Ten wins. The magic number is now five. The team has finally gotten itself squarely back into the muddy-mediocre-middle of the Big Ten. Illinois may not be very happy to be there but after and 0-4 start to the Big Ten, you better believe the Gophers are. Huge win for the Gophers and now we are huge Illinois fans the rest of the season. But after three overtime sessions, I really hope we don't face them again this season.

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