MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (AP) — Austin Hollins scored a career-high 32 points to lead Minnesota to an 81-73 win Tuesday night over Southern Mississippi and a spot in the NIT semifinals.
Hollins, playing in his school-record 139th game, scored 12 straight points in a span of 1:42 to erase an eight-point first-half deficit. He made all 10 of his foul shots, including six straight in the final 48.1 to hold off the Golden Eagles, who had closed to within 78-73.
“Hollins is a very good player,” Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall said. “We knew coming in that he would be a key in containing him. He gets 32 (points). We did not do a good job there. I thought we did a pretty good job on (DeAndre) Mathieu, but Austin Hollins was fantastic.”
Joey King scored 15 and Maurice Walker added 12 for Minnesota (23-13), which is in the NIT semifinals for the second time in three years and seventh overall.
The Golden Gophers play Florida State or Louisiana Tech Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
“This was a great win for us,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “Our goal was to make the NCAA tournament, but our team has really been enjoying this experience which you don’t always see. They’re playing with passion and pride. They understand that they don’t want their seniors to walk off their home court with a loss.”
Southern Mississippi (29-7), who was led by Neil Watson’s 16 points, lost in the NIT quarterfinals for the second straight year. USM tied a school record with 29 victories, first record in 1951-52 when it was an NAIA school.