Gophers rally, but fall short in loss to Indiana
It would have been hard to tell that Indiana beat a top 10 team by just looking at the expressions on the Hoosiers' faces after the game.
Victor Oladipo scored 20 points to help No. 5 Indiana hold off No. 8 Minnesota 88-81 on Saturday afternoon, but the Hoosiers nearly blew a 23-point halftime lead.
"I feel good, but at the same time, I know there's a lot of stuff we need to work on," Oladipo said. "There's some big games down the road. We've got to watch this tape and see what happened in the second half and what we did and correct it. There's really good teams coming up and we've got to be ready for them."
Jordan Hulls scored 19 points, Cody Zeller had 18 and Christian Watford had 15 points and nine rebounds for the Hoosiers (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten).
Andre Hollins scored 25 points, Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points and 10 rebounds and Austin Hollins added 13 points for Minnesota (15-2, 3-1), which had its winning streak snapped at 11 games. Minnesota was coming off an 84-67 win at No. 12 Illinois on Wednesday.
Minnesota actually was more upbeat than Indiana after the game.
"We fought back," Andre Hollins said. "That's what we can take from that is we don't give up, we don't lie down, we don't back down from anybody. We just have to limit our turnovers, limit out mistakes and concentrate."
The Hoosiers led 52-29 at halftime, shooting 66 percent from the field against a Minnesota team that entered the game allowing 38 percent shooting.
The Gophers rallied in the second half and had a chance to steal the game in the final minute. A 3-pointer by Maverick Ahanmisi cut Indiana's lead to 83-77 with 39.3 seconds to go, and the Gophers cut it to 84-81 when Andre Hollins made two of three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer.
Hulls, a senior who entered the game as a career 88 percent free-throw shooter, missed two free throws but got the offensive rebound. He made two free throws with 15 seconds remaining to finally put the game out of reach.
Indiana, which entered the game as the nation's highest-scoring team, took an early 16-12 lead on a fast-break layup by Kevin Ferrell. Minnesota came back with a 3-pointer by Ahanmisi, but the Hoosiers came back with a 3-pointer by Hulls, then a steal and layup by Oladipo to take a 21-15 lead.
A 3-pointer from NBA range by Hulls pushed the lead to nine, forced a timeout and sent the Assembly Hall crowd into a frenzy. After the timeout, a putback by Oladipo made it 26-15 before Mbakwe stopped the run with a dunk.
IU went right back to work. Another NBA three by Hulls, then two 3-pointers by Christian Watford, pushed Indiana's lead to 40-21.
Hulls closed the half with another three, one of seven the Hoosiers made in the final 10:08 of the first half.
"We knew what we did," Andre Hollins said. "They shot threes. It's simple. Basketball is simple. We just have to limit those. There's no panic."
Minnesota tried to scrape back into the game early in the second half. Mbakwe's one-handed putback dunk cut Indiana's lead to 56-41, then the Hoosiers stepped on the line while trying to pass the ball inbounds. Minnesota got the lead down to 13 and had the ball, but the Hoosiers kept their composure. Ferrell's 3-pointer pushed the lead back to 62-45.
Minnesota rallied once more, cutting Indiana's lead to 77-68 when Austin Hollins made two of three free throws after getting fouled on a 3-pointer. A 3-pointer by Minnesota's Rodney Williams made it 79-71, and the Golden Gophers stole the ball and attacked before Williams missed a putback dunk. Hulls made two free throws at the other end, but Andre Hollins' 3-pointer cut Indiana's lead to 81-74 with 50 seconds remaining, setting up the wild finish.
Indiana had one assist and 11 turnovers in the second half.
"We've just got to handle the ball better," Hulls said. "We're capable. We know we can do it.
The final minutes gave the Golden Gophers some confidence.
"I feel like we can compete with any team in the nation, the way we played in the second half," Andre Hollins said. "We just have to stay mentally tough. I think we have mental toughness, but we have to have that the whole game."
Zeller didn't like the way the Hoosiers played after halftime, but he likes what the final score did for the Hoosiers in the standings.
"We had a good first half, but you've always got to come back with the same energy," he said. "The energy dropped off a little bit, but a win is a win in this conference. It's tough to come by sometimes. We'll take it."
Notes: Minnesota won six of the previous nine meetings with Indiana. ... All of Minnesota's starters entered the game averaging at least nine points. ... Mbakwe started for the fifth time this season. He is coming back from knee surgery last season. ... Minnesota committed 12 turnovers in the first half. ... Indiana missed 11 shots in the first half and got offensive rebounds on six of them. ... All five Indiana starters had scored at least 10 points before the midway point of the second half. ... Minnesota's Joe Coleman, who scored a career-high 29 points against Illinois on Wednesday, finished 11 points and was in foul trouble for much of the game.
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