Payton Willis stared at the Indiana student section and flexed after his layup plus the foul during the Gophers' rally in the second half of Sunday's 73-60 loss in Bloomington.
The 6-4 senior guard was on a tear with 12 of his 18 points in the second half during an 18-5 run that helped the Gophers take the lead after facing a 12-point deficit.
Everything about that stretch felt like the three true road wins the Gophers already had under their belt this season, but the Hoosiers turned them away down the stretch.
It was hard for first-year coach Ben Johnson to be overly critical of his team after Willis and company battled back in a hostile environment. The program hasn't won in Assembly Hall since 2012.
Up next the Gophers (10-3, 1-3 in the Big Ten) will try to win at Michigan State's Breslin Center on Wednesday for the first time since 2015.
"They know when they buy in, they compete, and they play hard, and they're the aggressor they can put themselves in position to be successful," Johnson said. "Now it's what do we need to do better vs. Michigan State to finish the deal?"
Here are four things we learned in the Gophers' loss Sunday at Indiana:
The Gophers were waiting for Willis to showcase the ability in Big Ten play that made him arguably their go-to player in some of the biggest wins during the nonconference season.
Entering Sunday's game, their co-captain and floor leader was averaging 11.7 points on 35.1 percent shooting from the field and 25 percent shooting from three-point range in three Big Ten games.
Willis averaged just nine points on 6-for-24 shooting (25 percent) in losses to Michigan State and Illinois, but he turned his play around in a big way against the Hoosiers.
Even in defeat, Willis looked like the best player on the floor at times. He finished with 18 points and five rebounds, but 12 points going 5-for-11 from the field came in the second half.
"[Willis] kind of got into a little bit of a rhythm," Johnson said. "For him, once he makes a couple that rim looks really big. To his credit he kept attacking. I thought all of our guys did."
Willis and sophomore standout Jamison Battle combined to score 37 points against Indiana, including 23 points in the second half, but they weren't alone in having success offensively.
Senior guard E.J. Stephens had also struggled in the losses to Michigan State and Illinois after scoring 14 points combined on 6-for-19 shooting, but he was determined to make an impact Sunday.
The 6-3 former Lafayette transfer hasn't hit a three-pointer in the last three games (0-for-6), but Stephens didn't settle for jump shots against Indiana. He scored 12 points on 3-for-7 shooting from the field but hit a season-best 6-for-6 free throws.
Having a third scoring option behind Battle and Willis could make a difference in the Gophers getting their second win in Big Ten play. Now they'll have to find a way to get senior guard Luke Loewe going as well. Loewe has just 11 points combined on 3-for-18 shooting in his last three games, including zero points on 0-for-8 shooting Sunday at Indiana. That was his first scoreless game since his sophomore year at William & Mary in 2018-19.
NO BALL MOVEMENT
Indiana passing was a thing of beauty Sunday afternoon. The ball rarely stuck in one place for too long, including when it was thrown inside to star big man Trayce Jackson-Davis.
The Hoosiers finished with 17 assists on 27 field goals, which included five players with at least two assists.
The backcourt of Rob Phinisee and Xavier Johnson combined for 27 points and nine assists with only one turnover. On the other side, the Gophers relied too often on 1-on-1 plays to finish with only six assists on 23 field goals.
Johnson took pride in having an unselfish group this season, but his players didn't share the ball as much at Indiana. Five of the seven players in the rotation Sunday finished with zero assists. Loewe was really the only one setting up teammates consistently with four assists.
That lack of ball movement stalled the offense and contributed to the Gophers going scoreless from the field in the final 2 minutes, 59 seconds. They were 1-for-10 from the field to end the game.
THREE AND D
Something is going wrong with the Gophers when it comes to shooting and defending three-pointers in conference play.
It could be as simple as the competition is just better, but something needs to change.
In their three losses, Michigan State, Illinois, and Indiana combined to shoot 42.4% (25-for-59) against the Gophers from beyond the arc. The Wolverines would've been tough to beat on Dec. 11 if they weren't held to 3-for-18 shooting from three.
Although there has been improvement in three-point shooting from last season (28.4 to 35.5% entering Sunday), the Gophers shot just 22% (14-for-63) from beyond the arc combined in their three losses.
A good sign on Sunday was the Gophers able to score inside the arc with 30 points in the paint against the Hoosiers.