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Dave Campbell / Associated Press, Published December 04 2012

Hollins helps Gophers breeze past Jackrabbits

MINNEAPOLIS – Andre Hollins scored 20 of his 22 points before halftime, and No. 14 Minnesota breezed to an 88-64 victory on Tuesday over a South Dakota State team missing point guard Nate Wolters.

Hollins swished his first six 3-point attempts and finished 8 for 9 from the field for the Gophers (9-1), who reached their highest ranking in the Associated Press poll this week in six years under coach Tubby Smith.

Austin Hollins had 17 points, five assists and four steals, Joe Coleman added 15 points and seven rebounds and the Gophers did most of their damage on the perimeter and the fast break to notch their largest winning margin this season.

Jordan Dykstra scored 17 points for the Jackrabbits (6-3), who missed Wolters their standout from nearby St. Cloud whose ankle injury prevented him from playing in his home state for the final time.

Minnesota is 16-0 against South Dakota State since the two schools first met in 1930. The Gophers play at USC on Saturday before wrapping up their nonconference schedule at home against North Dakota State and Lafayette.

They’ll be challenged often in a Big Ten that’s as top heavy as it’s been since Smith arrived from Kentucky, far more than in these December games against mid-major foes.

But the Gophers will bring a deep, athletic team that’s clearly growing in confidence.

Their defense, with Austin Hollins getting steals with his long, quick arms on the wing and Rodney Williams swatting shots around the basket, has never been in question.

Outside shooting and careful ball-handling have been perhaps the biggest concerns, and at least for this night the Gophers put all that to rest.

They turned the ball over only 13 times, compared to 21 assists, and shot nearly 57 percent from the floor.

Not to let the guards get all the attention, Trevor Mbakwe had eight points and 10 rebounds off the bench.

The Gophers started the game by making 11 of their first 17 field goals and began to make this look like a dunk contest in the first half, grabbing nearly every loose ball and turning them into easy fast breaks.

Freshman Jake Bittle, who replaced Wolters in the starting lineup, had five points, seven assists and seven turnovers.

Bittle lost his dribble near midcourt when Austin Hollins and Elliott Eliason converged on him near the 5-minute mark, and Hollins took the ball the other way for an uncontested double-pump dunk to stretch Minnesota’s lead to 30-18.

S. DAKOTA ST. (6-3): C. White 3-7 1-2 10, Fiegen 5-10 0-0 10, Dykstra 5-14 4-4 17, Carlson 2-13 0-0 5, Bittle 1-5 2-2 5, Horstman 1-2 0-0 3, Heemstra 3-4 1-1 7, Jacobsen 2-2 1-2 7. Totals 22-57 9-11 64.

MINNESOTA (9-1): Williams Jr. 1-6 0-0 2, Eliason 1-1 2-2 4, Au. Hollins 5-11 4-5 17, Coleman 7-10 1-2 15, An. Hollins 8-9 0-0 22, Welch 2-7 1-2 5, Mbakwe 3-5 2-2 8, Osenieks 1-1 0-0 3, Ingram 2-4 2-5 6, Ahanmisi 0-1 0-0 0, Walker 1-1 0-2 2, Shell 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 33-58 12-20 88.

Halftime: Minnesota 48-24. 3-Point Goals: S. Dakota St. 11-27 (Dykstra 3-6, C. White 3-7, Jacobsen 2-2, Horstman 1-2, Bittle 1-3, Carlson 1-7), Minnesota 10-22 (An. Hollins 6-7, Au. Hollins 3-7, Osenieks 1-1, Ahanmisi 0-1, Williams Jr. 0-2, Welch 0-4). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: S. Dakota St. 26 (Dykstra 6), Minnesota 38 (Mbakwe 10). Assists: S. Dakota St. 17 (Bittle 7), Minnesota 21 (Au. Hollins 5). Total Fouls: S. Dakota St. 14, Minnesota 14. A: 10,213.