Bloomington, Ind. – The Gophers’ shoved their way to the rim and limited No. 19 Indiana’s drives all afternoon, taking yet another game down to the wire. But in the final minutes, Minnesota once again settled for jump shots and spaced out on defense — key suspects in Saturday’s 74-68 loss at Assembly Hall.
The Gophers (6-16, 0-10 Big Ten) have now lost 11 in a row and 14 of 15 games, but afterward, the team sounded mostly upbeat after coming within seven points or fewer for the fifth consecutive game.
“I know people make fun of us and our record and so on, but I’m real proud of these guys,” coach Richard Pitino said. “They’re fighting.”
Indeed. The Gophers turned over the ball just four times, attacked the lane and limited Indiana — their second of four ranked opponents in six games — to just 2-for-18 shooting from three-point range.
Once again, though, the ending was a confluence of poor decisions and mental miscues.
Minnesota crawled back from 16 down to claim a 67-66 lead with 3:54 left after Dupree McBrayer swiped the ball from Troy Williams and whipped down the court for a dunk. But after Thomas Bryant — a Gopher killer all afternoon — converted a layup to flip the control and McBrayer missed his next shot, Minnesota got another steal but managed just a hurried three from Nate Mason.
“The first option was to get to the rim,” Mason said. “But it was so congested in there so we settled for a shot we shouldn’t have settled for.”
Then, something stranger happened. Four of the five Gophers on the court started to walk toward the sideline. With the chessboard cleared, Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell made a beeline for the basket, getting the ball to Bryant for an easy dunk.
Pitino said afterward that he couldn’t see what happened, but acknowledged, “We can’t do that.”
“I have no idea what they were doing,” Ferrell said. “I think they thought we were going to call a timeout. I just saw four players walking toward the bench and I decided to push. … It was probably one of the weirdest plays I’ve ever seen in a basketball game.”
After Minnesota senior Joey King missed a corner three and McBrayer hit one of two free throws, Ferrell sealed the win with a pair of his own at the line with four seconds left.
Mason and freshman Kevin Dorsey gave Minnesota a shot with 21 points apiece, thriving in the rotation together with senior Carlos Morris not making the trip due to the funeral of a family friend. It was a season high for Dorsey.
Indiana (18-4, 8-1) led 39-27 lead at halftime despite getting just two points from Ferrell, but when Dorsey and Mason starting attacking, the Gophers started creeping back. Dorsey, tormenting Ferrell all day, sank three consecutive buckets to bring the Gophers back within 12 with just over 14 minutes left. Less than 10 minutes later, Minnesota pulled within 60-54 after a circus loose ball play wound up in Mason’s hands for a layup. That started the push that once again came up just short.
“I feel like we settled and went out there, whatever we had and just gave it our all,” Mason said. “I feel like we had nothing to lose and it showed we were ready to battle.”