WHAT HAPPENED: Indiana almost blew a 52-29 advantage gained in a spectacular first-half, but got a key offensive rebound from senior guard Jordan Hulls and four free throws fHulls and Christian Watford in the last 15 seconds to claim an 88-81 win over No. 8 Minnesota in front of 17,472 at Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers went on an 18-2 run midway through the first half and outscored Minnesota 36-14 in the last 11 minutes of the first half to take that 52-29 advantage. However, Minnesota opened the second half with a 14-4 run and stayed within striking distance the rest of the second half. The Golden Gophers cut the deficit to eight points with 1;49 left and then three with 19 seconds to go when sophomore guard Andre Hollins hit two of three free throw shots. Hulls missed three straight free throws, but sophomore center Cody Zeller kept Minnesota senior forward Trevor Mbakwe from getting the the rebound on his third miss, poking the ball out of his hands. Hulls grabbed the rebound and hit two free throws that essentially sealed Minnesota’s fate.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: The Hoosiers only got three points from their bench, but all five of their starters played close to their highest possible level in the first half.
Junior guard Victor Oladipo committed three costly fouls on 3-point shots, but he was also ferocious on defense in the first half. He finished with three steals, caused several more turnovers and scored 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting with six rebounds and two assists.
Hulls was devastated with his key missed free throws, but he also hit the clinchers and scored 19 points, knocking down four first-half 3-pointers including at least two that were from NBA range. Minnesota’s Austin Hollins was defending him extremely closely, so Hulls decided his best bet was just to shoot from beyond the defense.
Zeller went toe-to-toe with Mbakwe, one of the Big Ten’s most physically imposing players, and outscored him with 18 points on 6-for-8 shooting. He also grabbed six rebounds and had three blocks, two steals and two assists.
Senior forward Christian Watford had perhaps his best defensive game of the season, tangling with both Mbakwe and Minnesota senior forward Rodney Williams and, in most cases, getting the best of hit. He finished with 15 points and nine rebounds, though he did have three steals and struggled inbounding the ball against the Minnesota press late in the game.
Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell also had one of his best outings, scoring 13 points and posting eight assists in 37 minutes.
Minnesota sophomore guard Andre Hollins kept the Golden Gophers in the game with 25 points and four steals and three assists, but he also had five turnovers. Mbakwe had 13 points and 10 rebounds. Austin Hollins also scored 13 and Williams and Joe Coleman had 11 points each.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Indiana’s first half was essentially a prototype for everything the Hoosiers want to do.
It started on defense, and the Hoosiers were able to create havoc in both man-to-man and a 2-3 zone, causing a surprising amount of turnovers in the latter. Minnesota gave the ball away 12 times in the first half, and Indiana scored 19 points on those. The Hoosiers got scoring from everywhere, hitting on seven of 11 3-pointers, scoring 36 points in the paint and 14 on fast breaks. Zeller didn’t get a ton of post touches, but he scored when he did. Oladipo and Ferrell were slicing up the defense on drives. Hulls was aggressive in finding his shot and Watford scored inside and outside.
The second half, however, was mostly a mess. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 11 times with just one assist after posting 13 assists against just four turnovers in the first half. The Minnesota full-court press caused the Hoosiers a number of problems, as they struggled to get open for the inbound pass and to stay out of traps once the ball got in. IU coach Tom Crean took responsibility, saying he should have had the Hoosiers doing more screening.
Indiana did well in the zone for most of the first half and rebounded out of it well also, but with the Golden Gophers jacking 3′s to try to get back in the game, the zone gave them more clean looks even though they were usually deep, which helped them get back in the game especially late. Fortunately for Indiana, they had built a big enough first half lead to not lose it all.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN: The concerns raised by the second half were very real, and after a turnover-ridden second-half against Penn State, the giveaways are magnified even more. The fact that the Hoosiers have twice in a row failed to put together two good halves shows a problematic vulnerability.
Still, the brilliant first-half makes this win a statement victory for Indiana. No. 1 Duke and No. 4 Arizona have already lost, which means the Hoosiers will likely step up to at least No. 3. It’s the Hoosiers first win over a Top 10 opponent this season. It indicates to many that their ranking is legitimate and not just a product of high preseason expectations, and it also suggests that the Hoosiers and Michigan are the Big Ten’s top teams.
WHO SAID WHAT:
IU coach Tom Crean
“The difference now is a year ago, we would’ve been ecstatic with that victory. I want them to enjoy it, but we have different expectations now.”
“The game went two ways, but both teams played extremely hard for 40 minutes. That never went away. We knew they weren’t going to go away in the second half. We continued to play extremely hard in the second half after getting off to a great lead. We didn’t always play as efficient as we needed to. We weren’t always on the attack like we needed to be. But when you outrebound a team like Minnesota and the way that they’re rebounding, you continue to go hard, and you continue to answer when they have an answer for what you’re doing, it’s a big win.”
On the Press
“We didn’t attack it correctly,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “We just didn’t. We got caught up a little bit in getting it down the court rather than how we were going to get it down the court. … I just think we didn’t do a great job with our spacing. We didn’t do a great job with the inbounds. I’ll blame myself for not having enough screening, because they were very physical.”
On the rebound
“It wasn’t any of my doing. It was Cody. Cody got into the lane and he was able to tip it out. I was just, I guess, mad enough to go get it.”
On the first half
“I’d say we did a really good job of moving the ball. Our defense, though, is what really got us going. Victor did a great job on the ball getting steals, getting fast breaks and just doing different things on the defensive end that led to our offense. That’s what we wanted to come in and do, and that’s what we have to do to keep on winning.”
On the second half
“We just gotta do a better job of playing a full 40 minute game,” Hulls said. “… The second half, we can’t accept that. We know we have to play a lot better.”
On the second half
“We just have to continue to have that same energy. As you see, we really didn’t at all. We got complacent.”
On the Press
“They did a great job pressing, but I thought it was more on us. … Those turnovers are on our part. We weren’t looking inside enough as much as we needed to and lost that edge that we had. They did a great job of pushing us to the corners and pretty much trapping. We just have to do a better job of just taking care of the ball and not letting them come to us and just attack them.”
On his fouls
That’s just me being undisciplined. As a leader on defense, I cannot make mistakes. To be honest, I feel like I almost blew the game away.”