In the NIT Quarterfinals, Minnesota currently holds a 44-40 lead over Southern Miss. But Southern Miss came out hot. They were making some ridiculous threes in the beginning, and went on a quick 8-0 run after two foul shots by Austin Hollins. They were making some smart extra passes and were finding open men around the perimeter and under the basket.
But the most interesting part of Southern Miss's game came on the defensive end. They play an aggressive 2-3 zone hybrid that made Minnesota look very uncomfortable on offense. They were active in the passing lanes and forced the Gophers into some tough shots.
Because of that zone, the Gophers resorted to shooting some long threes. For a while, they weren't falling, but Mo Walker's offensive rebounds prevented them from lagging behind. Mo Walker's 6'10", 250 lb. frame was no match for the undersized Golden Eagles. He had 5 rebounds in the first half, including 2 offensive boards. But eventually, Minnesota's threes started to drop, including two threes in a row by Maverick Ahanmisi, the seldom-used senior from Santa Clarita, CA. His second three tied the game up at 18 all.
Southern Miss's hustle and effort kept them ahead throughout the first half. They pushed it up the court for easy looks and out-rebounded the Gophers 21 to 12, even though the Gophers are bigger. All their rebounding success stemmed from their hustle and hard work, which was on full display tonight.
However, a few strokes of Austin Hollins' wrist tied this game up. He converted a 4-point play, then went right back down the court and hit another 3. He helped the Gopher comeback effort, scoring 18 points including 5-8 from three. With his help, Minnesota scored on 8 of their last 9 possessions. For them to maintain this lead, they'll have to keep Austin Hollins involved. Southern Miss's scoring is balanced and even, with no one in double figures. They'll need to have someone match Hollins one-on-one to win on the road.