Gophers head coach Richard Pitino made just one promise at his introductory press conference: "Our style of play is going to be fun for you to watch. We're going to press on every possession, we're going to try to create offense from our defense. It's going to be a great brand of basketball."
Minnesota did exactly that in their Maui Invitational opener against Syracuse. The Gophers set the tempo for a fast 40 minutes, and trailed the nation's No. 8 team by just three points at halftime.
C.J. Fair helped Syracuse pull away late for a 75-67 win, but the Gophers proved they can compete with an elite program in Pitino's first year.
"When you are building a program and you are at the early, early stages, you want to show that you can compete on every single possession," Pitino said. "Our guys did that tonight."
Andre Hollins scored 14 points, with 5 rebounds and two assists. Malik Smith added 16 off the bench on 4-7 shooting from three-point range.