Hoosiers outwork, outplay, outlast Gophers

  • Article by: MYRON P. MEDCALF , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2011 - 11:14 AM

Minnesota's lack of first-half intensity put it well behind, and not even a sizable comeback in the second half could cover it up.

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BLOOMINGTON, IND. - The video highlights from Indiana's 60-57 victory over the 18th-ranked Gophers men's basketball team on Wednesday night will lie.

They'll focus on Blake Hoffarber's last-second three-point attempt that would've sent the game into overtime or the Gophers' late rally that nearly erased a double-digit deficit.

Long before the end-of-game suspense, however, the Hoosiers (12-11, 3-7 Big Ten) had separated themselves from the Gophers with their relentlessness and toughness.

The Hoosiers, who lost their first four Big Ten games, led from start to finish.

They moved the Gophers out of their way, proven by their 21-16 rebounding margin in the first half. They dunked in their faces. They turned Gophers post players into jump shooters.

They led 33-21 at halftime -- a hole the Gophers (16-6, 5-5 Big Ten) never escaped.

"If you're not going to rebound, you're not going to fight back, you're not going to box out, anybody is going to beat you," Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "You've got to set the tone and we weren't doing any of that. We weren't doing any of the little things. They were outworking us and outhustling us."

Only 24 hours before tipoff, the Hoosiers announced Christian Watford, their top scorer and rebounder, would miss an undetermined amount of games because of a broken hand. Enter Tom Pritchard, who averaged 1.7 points entering Wednesday's game.

In the first half, Pritchard snuck behind Trevor Mbakwe, grabbed a rebound midair and dunked during a split-second sequence that fired up the announced Assembly Hall crowd of 16,168 -- a lingering winter storm couldn't keep them away.

Pritchard scored 12 points. But his attitude established the aggressive pace the Hoosiers used to beat their second ranked team in three games.

"He took a mind-set that he was going to dunk everything," Indiana coach Tom Crean said after the game.

The Big Ten's best shot-blockers were embarrassed by their inability to defend him.

"We didn't have an answer for him," said Mbakwe, who matched a season low with seven points. "It was disappointing because no big [man] in the country should do that with our big lineup."

The Gophers faced a 50-34 deficit with 9 minutes, 49 seconds to play. After a 20-5 run over the next seven minutes, they pulled within one point at 55-54. Verdell Jones III, who missed the three previous games because of a knee injury, scored his team's final five points, including a three-pointer from the corner with 90 seconds to play to put his team ahead 60-55.

Hoffarber missed a three-pointer near the buzzer that would have tied the score.

But it didn't have to come down to that in the Gophers' fifth conference road loss of the year.

The Gophers hit 27 percent of their shots in the first half. They missed half of their 22 free throws for the game. Indiana scored 18 points off the Gophers' 10 turnovers.

Rodney Williams and Ralph Sampson III -- who had obvious size advantages in most offensive situations -- took a total of five three-pointers and connected on one of them. In the second half, Smith yelled, "Post him up, will ya?" to his struggling big men. Colton Iverson, passive like the rest of the team, took a 15-footer that clanked off the rim.

Indiana kept defenders in Hoffarber's face. He went 4-for-12 from the field, scored a team-high 15 points and recorded four turnovers. Smith said he'll keep the senior at point guard with Al Nolen out indefinitely because of a broken foot.

Hoffarber, the team's only healthy captain, said the Gophers must play with more first-half intensity, regardless of their opponent.

"You gotta come out like you're playing the No. 1 team in the country every game," he said. "You can't have these setbacks."

  • INDIANA 60, NO. 18 GOPHERS 57

    Up next: 1 p.m. Sunday vs. No. 1 Ohio State at Williams Arena • TV: ESPN (830-AM)

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