It was shades of Illinois. The Gophers had Indiana on the ropes. They had 'em beat. Could they put 'em away. No, not quite. Not yet. Not now. But finally, NOW! The final was Minnesota 77 Indiana 74.
The Gophers led 70-62 with 1:45 left to go after Ralph Sampson hit just his 2nd bucket of the night off a feed from Maverick Ahanmisi. At 1:11 Rodney Williams made 1-of-2 FT to make it 71-62. 13 seconds later Indiana hit a 3. 71-65. At :50, Mav missed the front end of a 1-and-1. 8 seconds later, Joe Coleman missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but the Hoosiers turned it over. Julian Welch returned the favor. Cody Zeller got the steal and an assist, Victor Oladipo got the 2, Welch the foul, and Oladipo the +1. 71-68. Still :40 to play.
But this time Coleman hit 2 FT and, after Matt Roth hit a 3 for Indiana, Coleman hit 2 more FT. 75-71 with :28 to go. 11 seconds later Zeller got the 2+1. 75-74 at :17. Austin Hollins made 2 FT at :15 and Indiana's Christian Watford finally missed a 3 at :05. Welch missed a pair of throws at :02 but Indiana couldn't get off a shot.
But, hey, great show. Minnesota ran off 8 straight points to go ahead 29-20 at 7:30 of the 1st. Indiana tied it up at 32 but the Gophers led 37-34 at the half. Minnesota shot 14-for-28, including 6-of-13 on 3-pointers. In the 2nd half, the Gophers led 43-34, then 56-47, and finally 68-62 when Sampson hit his 2nd bucket.
Overall the Gophers shot 29-for-62 (47 percent), Indiana 24-for-55 (44 percent). Minnesota snared 16 offensive rebounds to 14 for Indiana, though the Hoosiers converted that into 22 2nd chance points, Minnesota just 13. But Indiana had 16 turnovers, Minnesota 11, and the Gophers scored more points off turnovers, 17-13. The good news is the Gophers didn't win with 1 truly amazing weapon. They did everything well--or, well enough.
Austin Hollins scored a career high 18 points, Williams 14 and Welch 10. Sampson scored just those 4 points, but led the team with 8 rebounds and 4 assists.
Does this mean the Gophers are back? Can they contend? Well, let's take it 1 game at a time, whaddya say? Well, OK, the next 2 games. We're at Penn State (1-4) and Northwestern at home (1-3), A couple wins get Minnesota to a respectable 3-4 and then you can start thinking about anything more.
Player of the Day
About once a month I pick a non-Minnesotan. This is one of those nights. Brittney Rayburn of Purdue hit 12-of-15 3s for 38 points against the Gophers at Williams Arena, and a Purdue team that was lucky to beat Minnesota at home clobbered 'em on the road 72-55.
Coach of the Day
Tubby Smith, who somehow got his guys to believe they could compete with Indiana at Bloomington. I mean, you didn't believe it, did you? Nor did I. Good job by Tubby and his guys. Now, can they play that well again?