The Gophers needed to win this in the worst way, with the Big Ten's ballooning middle threatening to push them aside after a strong start highlighted by decisive home wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin. Looming down the stretch are road games against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan, with the rematch against the Badgers up next week.
With Walker, who started the second half, and Eliason, the Gophers have built a low-post game that ought to give them a chance in all of those games.
"I'll take a layup over a 3 any day," Hollins said. "They're getting confidence, and they're getting better."
Even Pitino acknowledged the evolution of the offense that began as a fast-breaking, 3-point-shooting, perimeter-based scheme. The Gophers haven't made enough outside shots to make that work, so they've turned to their big men on the block for many of their key baskets.
Mathieu's driving ability is still a major asset, though, when he's under control. After totaling 19 turnovers over those last three losses, he had just one on Saturday.
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