• Minnesota's Andre Hollins, center, listens to Austin Hollins, right, answer a question along with Rodney Williams, left, during a news conference for a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Minnesota is scheduled to play Florida Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

  • Minnesota's Andre Hollins (1) is defended by UCLA's Norman Powell, right, during the second half of a second-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament Friday, March 22, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Minnesota won 83-63. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

  • Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith answers a question during a news conference for a third-round game of the NCAA college basketball tournament, Saturday, March 23, 2013, in Austin, Texas. Minnesota is scheduled to play Florida Sunday. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)



AUSTIN, Texas — Since arriving at Minnesota in March 2007, Tubby Smith has tried to find a shooting guard he could mold into a scoring point guard.

It nearly worked with Devoe Joseph, but he transferred to Oregon.

It worked with Andre Hollins during a run to last year’s NIT championship game, but it didn’t always work as well as expected this season.

Hollins, you see, is a scorer first. The sophomore proved that with a 28-point performance in Minnesota’s 83-63 second-round NCAA tournament victory over UCLA on Friday, March 22.

Smith knows it will take time to develop Hollins into a true floor leader, but for now, the Gophers coach needs to figure out how to make him as aggressive offensively as he was leading the program to its first NCAA tournament victory since 1997.

Great things happen when Hollins is in attack mode; the Gophers are hoping the next great thing will be a trip to the Sweet 16 after a victory over third seed Florida (27-7) on Sunday.

“Knowing when to score, knowing when to be aggressive is huge,” Hollins said. “Coaches want me to come out aggressive so it opens the game up for my teammates. It’s also about my decision making and processing the plays. I have to know the different options off the pick-and-roll.

“Those are the ins and outs of being a point guard.”

Assistant coach Saul Smith, who played point guard at Kentucky for his father, has tried to be a mentor to Hollins because he sees the potential for a dynamic scoring point guard. His most common advice: Take the ball to the basket.

Last season, Hollins set the school record for free-throw shooting percentage in a season (90.4 percent), but Saul Smith said his pupil still took too many jumpers.

He still feels that way about Hollins.

“When you shoot 90 percent from the free-throw line, the last thing you want to do is fall in love with jump shots,” Saul Smith said. “He’s not super quick, but he’s shifty, steady and athletic. So if he can get his shoulders and hips past guys and get to the rim, then that will help him.

“Any time you’re shooting free throws as a guard, it’s good.”

On Friday, Hollins went 7 for 7 from the free-throw line. UCLA’s defense collapsed when he took his defender off the dribble. He usually pulls up for midrange jumpers, but this time he went to the rim. When he wasn’t scoring, he found open teammates or got fouled.

The Gophers are 13-3 this season when Hollins makes three or more free throws in a game. Eight of his nine 20-point performances came during those games, which included his career-best 41-point outing in a victory over tournament qualifier Memphis.

Hollins leads the Gophers with 14.3 points and 3.5 assists a game and is shooting 81 percent from the free-throw line.

He couldn’t explain why he isn’t always aggressive when it comes to driving into the lane. His coaches have told him he needs to work on his ball-handling; they also want him to get stronger by hitting the weights more often.

“I think I got to the rim really well last night,” he said. “Sometimes I get lulled into not taking my defender in when I can. Getting to the lane puts pressure on the defense. I’m learning to do that better. I also have to know when not to take it to the lane, so just learning that consistency is important.”

The Gophers have given Hollins more freedom to call his own plays, which started last year when he was the most valuable player during their run to the NIT championship game. They’ve tried running more pick-and-roll plays for him, too.

Hollins finished with five assists and just one turnover against UCLA.

Pushing the ball and playing at a faster pace helped to limit Hollins’ mistakes. It also gave him room to see the floor and figure out where he could exploit the Bruins’ defense. But sharing the point guard responsibilities also was a big help. Ausitn Hollins finished with 16 points and seven assists.

Moving Hollins to shooting guard throughout the game seems to benefit him right now; it takes away the pressure to run the offense and get teammates the ball. They can worry about getting him shots, too; that’s when the Gophers are most dangerous.

“If he goes out in transition and spots up, then Joe (Coleman) will find him. Austin will find him. Rodney (Williams) will find him,” Saul Smith said. “Those are things that help our team. He knows that. As a staff we told him that.

“He’s a quick learner. You can’t play that position if you’re not a very smart and intelligent person. That goes hand in hand. We have confidence (in him) as a staff. There’s no reason why he can’t do both right now.”

Follow Marcus R. Fuller at

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