WHAT HAPPENED: Minnesota dominated Indiana on the glass and claimed its first victory over a No. 1 team since 1989, beating the Hoosiers 77-73 in front of a crowd of 14,625 that stormed the Williams Arena court when the game ended.
Indiana led 34-30 at the break and was up by eight points with 15:42 to go in the second half, but Minnesota went on a 10-2 run — sparked by seven straight points by reserve center Elliott Eliason — to tie the game at 46. A 3-point play by Austin Hollins and a 3-pointer by Andre Hollins gave the Golden Gophers a 64-59 lead with 3:47 to go and the Hoosiers were forced to battle back the rest of the way. Minnesota twice held leads of seven points or more in the last 1:05 — thanks in large part to a foolish foul by Yogi Ferrell on a fast break that led to another 3-point play for Austin Hollins. Indiana’s Jordan Hulls hit a deep 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds to go to make it a one-possession game, but Andre Hollins hit a free throw and then stole an inbounds pass with the clock running out to clinch the game for Minnesota.
WHO MADE IT HAPPEN: Minnesota sixth-year senior forward Trevor Mbakwe — who once upon a time was a Marquette freshman playing for Tom Crean — played his best game of the season against his old mentor. He posted 21 points on 8-of-10 shooting with 12 rebounds and effectively man-handled IU forwards Christian Watford and Cody Zeller who posted a combined 17 points and nine rebounds on 5-for-14 shooing between them. The 6-foot-8, 245-pounder controlled the paint and made it impossible for either to get much accomplished.
Andre Hollins scored 16 points and posted three assists. He was just 4-for-13 from the field, but hit several big shots when the Golden Gophers needed them.Austin Hollins was just 3-for-11 and 0-for-5 from three, but his eight points came at critical points. he posted five assists against one turnover and also had four offensive rebounds.
Two Minnesota reserves were also critical. Eliason scored all of his seven points in succession and also finished with five rebounds in just 14 minutes, giving the Golden Gophers needed relieve when Mbakwe came off the floor in foul trouble. Reserve guard Maverick Ahanmisi also hit two huge 3-pointers — which accounted for half of Minnesota’s total — and had three assists in 21 minutes.
Indiana senior guard Jordan Hulls drilled five 3-pointers and was 6-for-9 from the field for 17 points, but he was just 1-for-3 in the second half, struggling to get looks to shoot in large part because he had to handle the ball so much against Minnesota’s pressure. Junior guard Victor Oladipo had 16 points on 5-for-10 shooting and five rebounds. Freshman point guard Yogi Ferrell had 10 points and five assists, but was 2-for-10 shooting and struggled to finish layups.
WHY DID IT HAPPEN: Minnesota controlled the glass in every way possible. The Golden Gophers won the rebounding battle 44-30. They grabbed 23 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 20 defensive rebounds, meaning they kept possession after 53.5 percent of their missed shots. They scored 21 points off offensive rebounds to Indiana’s eight. They had 40 points in the paint to Indiana’s 22.
That paint domination had a ripple effect. Sophomore center Cody Zeller barely got anything accomplished for Indiana all night and senior forward Christian Watford was a virtual non-factor. Taking away two of what have become Indiana’s big three required a lot from Oladipo and more from the rest of the Hoosiers, and Hulls’ brilliant shooting effort wasn’t quite enough. Mbakwe only had one blocked shot, but he was still a presence every time the Hoosiers tried to go to the rim and Minnesota finished with a total of four blocks.
The Hoosiers struggled to get shots for Hulls when Minnesota was pressing, and even though they committed just 11 turnovers in the game, a few came at key times, including a pass by junior swingman Will Sheehey that went just wide of an open Hulls a possession after Minnesota took a 61-59 lead. The Golden Gophers would take a five-point advantage and Indiana would never be closer than three points the rest of the way.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Hoosiers had put themselves in a situation where they had a margin for error and could afford a road slip-up, but they would have assuredly rather had it happen at Ann Arbor in the season finale after wrapping up the Big Ten regular season title. Now, they could be in a fight to maintain it the rest of the way, and that rematch with Michigan might take on major significance. They could still clinch a share of the conference title with wins in their next two games — both at home against Iowa and Ohio State — but they certainly can’t afford a let down in those two games, and they would still need the win over Michigan to win the league outright. The Hoosiers haven’t done that since 1993, so that would certainly be an important goal.
The bottom line is that as it stands, the Hoosiers would still probably have the overall No. 1 seed, the top seed in the Midwest regional and the Big Ten title if the season ended today. But it doesn’t, and their margin for error to keep all of those things is now smaller.
WHO SAID WHAT:
“There’s nothing more glaring than the rebounding. That was our biggest issue. Second-chance points, the fact that we got six offensive rebounds at half and got four in the second half. The fact that they had nine in the first half and got 19 in the second-half, that’s the difference. We weren’t nearly as good at the rebounding. They were shooting 20 percent from three. You think when you’re holding a team down like that, you’re going to be in alright shape, but we just weren’t physical enough on the glass. That’s the bottom line.”
On Trevor Mbakwe
“He’s a high-level, high-energy, tough guy that plays the game at a desperate level. Obviously, I’m biased, but no shame in that. He’s been in college a long time. He’s endured a lot. When we were at Marquette and signed him, I didn’t think we’d have him more than two, maybe three years tops. Then he got injured that first year, and then I left and he left, and one things leads to another and here he is. That’s a grown man that’s one of the best rebounders in this country and certainly in our league, and he was the toughest guy on the court tonight. We did not answer the bell there.”
“We weren’t physical enough. We didn’t create the first hit. There were just too many times that that shot went up and they were there before we were because we weren’t into their bodies. We picked a bad night to do that.”
“They were physical with him. Extremely physical with him. Cody’s certainly capable of a lot, and I think he’ll bounce back just fine.”
On preparing for Minnesota and whether or not they could get excited to play them after all of the Gophers’ losses
“We really didn’t spend much time on those games. We didn’t spend much time on those games. We focused on the Minnesota that was Top 10 in the country. They’re really good. They’ve got a great coach. I don’t know many people here have Hall-of-Fame votes, but when that time comes, he’ll get his share and he belongs in there. He’s a high-level coach. He’s got a really good team. They’ve had some tough nights, it’s a tough league. But they were great on that glass, they made big buckets.”
“Christian wasn’t a a real factor in the game unfortunately. The fouls defintely brought that to a head. What I didn’t like was that Cody got that foul on Maurice Walker at the end of the half and all of the sudden it gives him two instead of one. It changes all kinds of dynamics going into the second half. Our post defense and things like that weren’t the issues, it was our lack of blocking out. … It can’t be 14-4 in the second half on second shots. It just can’t.”
“We just didn’t rebound the basketball. We knew that Minnesota was a really good offensive rebounding team. We didn’t box out well enough. Guard rebounds, the guards didn’t get enough rebounds. We weren’t helping the bigs. That’s what killed us.”