BLOOMINGTON, IND. - For a couple of chaotic milliseconds, it looked as though the Gophers might actually do it -- actually make a 23-point comeback on Indiana for their biggest victory in years.
Instead, their fate took an awkward bounce and landed into the hands of the No. 5 Hoosiers in the final seconds.
After the No. 8 Gophers generated a series of impressive runs to work themselves back into a game that looked like a foregone conclusion, they found themselves behind by three points when Andre Hollins sank two of three free throws with 19 seconds remaining.
Indiana's Jordan Hulls got the ball and was quickly fouled, but incredibly, the senior guard -- an 88 percent free-throw shooter in his career -- missed both foul shots, leaving an opening for the Gophers to tie the score.
Instead, the possibility was quickly squashed. With the Gophers' Trevor Mbakwe and Indiana's Cody Zeller battling for the ball off the second miss, Hulls snuck in and plucked it off an odd hop.
"I just didn't rebound the basketball," Mbakwe said. "I gave it up. That was big for us. ... Zeller got a hand on it at the last second. It kind of took a funny bounce and Hulls came up and snuck up and got the rebound."
Fouled again, this time Hulls made both shots, giving the Hoosiers a five-point lead in an eventual 88-81 victory.
"I guess Trevor grabbing Zeller tipped it and Hulls got in and got it -- I think that was the game right there," Hollins said.De-fense, de-fense
Before the Gophers' resurgent second half, they had one of their worst 20-minute performances of the season, trailing 52-29 at the break and looking discombobulated against the Hoosiers defense. What Indiana threw at them was not simple -- with the Hoosiers switching from man-to-man to zone within individual possessions.
Though it's not usually so dramatic, a slow offensive start has been a trend this season. Typically, the Gophers play stingy enough defense to weather it. Again Saturday, they adjusted, but the deficit was too much to overcome.
"It just took a little bit to get used to," Mbakwe said. "We'd call a play out, but they scouted us pretty well and every time we called a play out they would switch to the zone. We were able to attack more in the second half, but that's just something we're looking forward to next time we play them, that they switch defenses."Getting a little shrill
Indiana got a strikingly greater number of opportunities at the free-throw line Saturday, taking 40 attempts to the Gophers' 15. In fact, Indiana star center Zeller didn't have a single foul on him until 32 seconds remained in the game.
The foul discrepancy certainly didn't please Gophers fans reacting in social media. The Gophers were called for 25 fouls, the Hoosiers 15, with a key player on each side fouling out (the Gophers' Rodney Williams and Indiana's Victor Oladipo).
But there were whistles on both sides that could have been blown that weren't.
"They had a little home cooking but it was all right," Hollins said. "We fought back."