Mbakwe's 21 points, 12 rebounds muscle Gophers past Indiana

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 27, 2013 - 7:33 AM

When the crowd finally cleared, the court at Williams Arena was a carcass.

Scattered paper debris and one stray pompom remained from the fray that overtook the Minnesota players after the buzzer sounded. The scoreboard was stuck showing the Gophers on top of No. 1 Indiana 77-73 long after the players paraded down to the locker room -- as if the fans could forget without the night's heroes there.

A half-hour later, not much else remained on the floor. Led by an incredibly aggressive 21-point, 12-rebound performance by Trevor Mbakwe, the Gophers (19-9, 7-8 in the Big Ten) had taken their last scrap of guts, heart, grit and hope and left it all there for the screaming, surging crowd of 14,625 to snatch off the wooden tiles.

Less than 30 minutes earlier, Mbakwe, Rodney Williams and Andre Hollins were standing near center court when Hollins hit one of two free throws with three seconds left to seal the victory and open the floodgates.

"All the sudden, Trevor fell and I ended up falling, and then Andre Hollins ended up falling -- so we were just all in the middle of the court on the ground for a while," Williams said. "When it happens like that, you don't really mind. That was a special moment for us."

One they fought for from the opening tip to the final seconds.

It felt like a certain destiny then, despite Indiana's Christian Watford's pair of three-pointers to shrink the Gophers' lead to four with 43 seconds to go and Jordan Hulls' three-pointer with four seconds left to put the Hoosiers (24-4, 12-3) within a single possession.

Minnesota had been here before -- in its first Big Ten loss, before the season ran off the tracks, when Indiana held off the Gophers' second-half surge and put them away.

"It was more of a pride thing," said Hollins (16 points, three assists). "The last time we played them, we just gave them the game. We let them dog us out, and we know we have to hold home court. It's a certain toughness you have to have when you play at home -- it's a little moxie you have to have because it's your place."

That the Gophers had witnessed frustrated, booing faces with signs calling for their coach to be fired as the losses dragged out and just three wins came in 11 games only added to the motivation.

Finally, the Gophers got angry, taking it out by totaling 44 rebounds to Indiana's 30, with an all-out attack in the paint, stellar defense on the Hoosiers' Cody Zeller (nine points, seven rebounds) and a perpetual intensity.

Minnesota led by six early and rebounded from a 34-30 deficit at the half by striking quickly in the second. Mbakwe, as he did in the first half, propelled his team with two quick baskets. When the Gophers trailed by seven with 13:12 left, Elliott Eliason's scoring led them back to a tie, with Hollins snapping out of a two-point first half to put Minnesota ahead.

Soon, the crowd was creeping closer, salivating for the chance.

"That's something -- you watch it on TV all the time and you always wish for it, and it finally happened," said Williams, who also got a hug and a kiss from his daughter amid the fray.

The arena guards could hold the fans back only so long.

So just before Williams hit the ground, he smiled and took it in.

Sports home page photo of Williams Arena crowd courtesy of Nadine Babu

  • GOPHERS 77, INDIANA 73 Next: 2 p.m. Saturday vs. Penn State • Williams Arena • BTN, 1500-AM

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New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Minnesota 94 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Houston 93 FINAL
Boston 87
Portland 99 FINAL
Atlanta 105
Sacramento 90 FINAL
Cleveland 101
Toronto 127 FINAL
Brooklyn 122
Dallas 93 FINAL
Miami 72
LA Clippers 103 FINAL
New Orleans 108
Golden State 100 FINAL
Utah 110
Chicago 93 FINAL
Phoenix 99
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL(OT)
New Jersey 1
St. Louis 3 FINAL(SO)
Carolina 2
Nashville 0 FINAL
Colorado 3
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Vancouver 5
Chicago 4 FINAL
Anaheim 1
Harvard 75 FINAL
Princeton 72
Quinnipiac 57 FINAL
Canisius 63
Brown 49 FINAL
Cornell 57
Siena 79 FINAL
Manhattan 87
Marist 65 FINAL
Niagara 61
Dartmouth 51 FINAL
Penn 58
Oregon 68 FINAL
Arizona State 67
Yale 63 FINAL
Columbia 59
Monmouth 60 FINAL
Fairfield 59
Western Ill 63
Oregon State 34 FINAL
Arizona 57
Kent State 55 FINAL
Buffalo 80
Canisius 75 FINAL
Monmouth 58
Butler 67 FINAL
Providence 59
Cornell 65 FINAL
Brown 52
Columbia 47 FINAL
Yale 55
Coll of Charleston 47 FINAL
Drexel 64
Penn 55 FINAL
Dartmouth 39
Elon 60 FINAL
James Madison 89
(19) Princeton 96 FINAL
Harvard 46
(9) Florida State 82 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Quinnipiac 87 FINAL
Siena 62
Richmond 54 FINAL
Rhode Island 50
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Southern Ill 64
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DePaul 93
Villanova 75 FINAL
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