Gophers dig deep first-half hole before rally comes up short

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 12, 2013 - 10:12 PM

Embarassed in the first half, the Gophers erased most of a 23-point deficit in the second only to fall short in the end.

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BLOOMINGTON, IND. - Had this game occurred a year ago, Gophers coach Tubby Smith might have been patting players' backs after the game. Indeed, last year's lack of visible frustration -- at least to the media -- said something on its own ... just as Smith's obvious dissatisfaction after an 88-81 loss at Indiana on Saturday said a thing or two about this year's squad.

Now, there are no gold stars for making it close against the No. 5 team in the country. This year's Gophers are good enough to win.

That's why when the No. 8 Gophers (15-2, 3-1 Big Ten) squandered an opportunity to potentially tie the score with 15 seconds left before an announced 17,472 at Assembly Hall, Smith was a little hard on his players afterward -- not just for failing to get the rebound off Jordan Hulls' missed free throw but for their lackluster performance in the first half that put them in that spot.

"We played very passively and they were much more aggressive, and I thought that was the difference," Smith said. "Obviously we had a chance with 15 seconds left and if we get that rebound ... we might make a three the way we were shooting at the end. But we didn't do the things during the course of the game."

Especially in the first half, when they gave up 52 points. The second half was a vastly different story, one about a Gophers team capable of coming back from a 23-point deficit by putting stifling pressure on a strong and balanced squad.

For that, Smith was impressed, noting the Gophers' "heart and toughness." But as with anything, increased success brings increased expectations: If the Gophers were good enough to be in that game at the end, they were good enough to win it.

Still, they got the chance.

Down 52-29 at halftime, the Gophers came back with improved defense -- Indiana (15-1, 3-0) shot only 28.6 percent in the second half after exploding for 65.5 percent in the first -- and with outbursts on offense. They drew back into the game by riding a barrage of three-pointers despite the fact that the Hoosiers were getting plenty of points from the free-throw line, going to the stripe 40 times in all.

When Andre Hollins was fouled on a three-point attempt with 18 seconds left, he made two of three shots to pull the Gophers within 84-81.

That's when Hulls was fouled and missed both free throws, but the Gophers couldn't grab the vital rebound. "That was the game right there," Andre Hollins said.

That the Gophers were able to get to that point shows just how much they have improved from a season ago, when deficits seemed insurmountable. This season, they have tenacity, along with the talent and aggressiveness to fight back. Once the Gophers started playing their game in the second half, they were tough to score on and tough to stop.

"They were very, very physical," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "It was tough to get open."

The only problem, of course, is that it took them so long to get there. The Gophers turned the ball over 12 times in the first half while looking bewildered by the varied defenses Indiana threw at them. Meanwhile, the Hoosiers were making seemingly every shot over a 36-14 run that spanned the final 10:08 of the half and extended their one-point lead to 23.

The second half might have proved that the Gophers belong in the conversation with the elite teams at the top of the Big Ten. At the same time, the Gophers -- who will get a quick chance for redemption Thursday when No. 2 Michigan visits -- will have to win close games against the league's top opponents if they want to challenge for the title.

"We know one game like this isn't going to dictate the rest of the season," Mbakwe said. "Whoever wins the Big Ten championship this year is going to have multiple losses, and unfortunately we had a tough loss on the road. We've just got to come home and take care of business."

  • (5) INDIANA 88, (8) GOPHERS 81 • Up next: 6 p.m. Thursday vs. (2) Michigan • Williams Arena • TV: ESPN (1500-AM)

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Tampa 6 FINAL
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 96 FINAL
Chicago 86
Cleveland 44 2nd Qtr 3:14
Houston 42
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 0 1st Prd 7:37
Winnipeg 1
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
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Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
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Dallas
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Connecticut 81
Quinnipiac 65 FINAL
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Rider 59
Iona 60 FINAL
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Oregon State 44 2nd Half 11:18
California 45
South Florida 38 2nd Half 10:40
Houston 55
Marquette 29 2nd Half
Providence 40
Michigan State 11 1st Half 10:44
Wisconsin 10
Siena 3:30 PM
Monmouth
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 65 FINAL
Hofstra 58
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 59 FINAL
Virginia 75
Texas 69 FINAL
West Virginia 76
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 76 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 65
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
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TX-San Antonio 60
Rhode Island 70 FINAL
Massachusetts 78
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VA Commonwealth 49
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Fordham 54
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Duquesne 51
George Mason 45 FINAL
(22) George Washington 80
Indiana 60 FINAL
(20) Rutgers 71
(12) Texas A&M 63 FINAL
LSU 80
Ole Miss 47 FINAL
(11) Miss State 55
Clemson 56 FINAL
Pittsburgh 61
Maine 47 FINAL
New Hampshire 61
Vermont 48 FINAL
Albany 76
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Monmouth 48
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(4) Notre Dame 67 FINAL
NC State 60
Wisconsin 62 FINAL
Penn State 56
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Hartford 56
Northeastern 47 FINAL
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Xavier 74
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Delaware 71
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Drexel 44
Illinois State 42 2nd Half 10:40
Bradley 39
Southern Ill 38 2nd Half 13:15
Loyola-Chicago 37
Northern Iowa 40 2nd Half 9:00
Wichita State 52
Minnesota 56 2nd Half 8:05
(17) Iowa 63
(15) North Carolina 44 2nd Half 13:27
(16) Duke 49
Alabama 39 2nd Half 10:30
Auburn 58
(9) Florida State 38 2nd Half 18:40
Miami-Florida 24
Arkansas 18 2nd Half 17:36
Missouri 26
Georgia 37 2nd Half 11:09
Florida 30
Dayton 65 2nd Half 8:00
Saint Louis 55
Drake 35 2nd Half 11:47
Missouri State 63
Colorado 11 1st Half 8:34
(10) Arizona State 11
(19) Stanford 18 1st Half 8:58
Oregon 16
Marquette 15 1st Half 11:05
DePaul 23
Southern Miss 19 1st Half 9:23
Texas-El Paso 19
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska

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