Mbakwe, Hollins lead Minnesota to 76-69 victory

Published 11:48 pm Monday, November 15, 2010

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Freshman Austin Hollins scored 12 points in his first collegiate start and Trevor Mbakwe added a double-double as Minnesota rallied for a 76-69 victory over Siena on Monday night .

Mbakwe finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds, Blake Hoffarber added 14 points and Ralph Sampson III scored 12 for the Golden Gophers (2-0).

Clarence Jackson led the Saints (0-2) with 29 points and Rakeem Brookins had 12.

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Hollins, the son of Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, found himself in the starting lineup because both Rodney Williams and Colton Iverson were benched to open the game because of a violation of team rules.

Minnesota fell behind by as many as 11 points in the first half and trailed by six early in the second.

Hollins changed that in a span of two minutes when he made a pair of 3-pointers and a free throw. His 3-pointer with 14:08 to play gave Minnesota a 47-42 lead and capped a 9-0 run.

“He plays his heart out, and he goes full throttle,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. “He didn’t rush anything. He does know how to play.”

Siena made 10 of its first 12 shots to take an early lead. Led by Mbakwe, the Gophers used an 8-1 spurt late in the first half to get back in the game. Mbakwe’s 3-point play with 1:10 to play in the half gave the Gophers a 33-32.

Jackson answered with a field goal in the paint on the next possession, and the Saints led 34-33 at halftime.

Siena scored eight of the first 10 points of the second half and took a 42-36 advantage on Jackson’s 3-pointer with 16:59 to play.

After Minnesota regained the lead and pushed it to 65-55 with 2:26 to play, Brookins repeatedly drove to the basket, and the Saints got within four late. But the Gophers sealed the win with free throws, making 8 of 11 in the final 2:05.

“These games are going to help us in the future,” Mbakwe said.

Siena was hurt by 22 turnovers, but shot 51 percent.

“We’ve got to get more consistent in our play,” Smith said. “We have droughts. Defensively we were bad tonight.”

After a pair of home victories, Minnesota heads out of town Tuesday for the Puerto Rico Tip Off. Their next game is Thursday against Western Kentucky.

“We’ve got to improve about 50 percent between now and Thursday,” Smith said. “We’ve got to do a lot of work.”