BLOOMINGTON, IND. – They came on breakaways, off screens and via offensive rebounds. They came vs. man-to-man defense, vs. the zone, from established shooters and those just piggybacking on the fun. They came in wide-open moments and despite hands in faces.
No matter what defenders did, Indiana’s three-pointers came, and they came in buckets, completely dismantling what had been encouraging defensive improvement by the Gophers men’s basketball team in a 90-71 rout on Sunday night at Assembly Hall.
Indiana hit 18 threes in all — a school record and by far the most the Gophers have given up this season — abruptly halting Minnesota’s three-game winning streak.
As they have done all season, the Gophers tried to make a last-ditch run, pulling within 11 with 5 minutes, 29 seconds to go. This time, however, the Gophers (16-10, 5-8 Big Ten) wouldn’t be hanging on to hope in the final minutes.
Indiana freshman James Blackmon Jr. responded with his sixth three-pointer of the night and Troy Williams slammed the door shut with a two-handed flush, hanging on the rim as the Gophers hung their heads. Blackmon finished with 24 points and seven rebounds, and Williams had 19 points and nine rebounds.
“They’re really tough to guard, they put you in so many binds with the way that they play because they play small and we don’t have a whole lot of depth to go blow-for-blow with them when they’re playing small,” coach Richard Pitino said.
“They just flat-out kicked our butt.”
The Gophers, who got 23 points from Andre Hollins, jumped out to a quick 14-6 lead, but their defensive zone then struggled to deal with Indiana’s quick passes and variety of shooters. The Gophers managed to force 18 Hoosiers turnovers, but that pressure was all but negated by Indiana’s abundance of second chances.
The Hoosiers (18-8, 8-5) collected 10 offensive rebounds — many on long shots — and outrebounded the Gophers 35-16 overall.
“You can’t win like that,” Hollins said, shaking his head.
Indiana hit two three-pointers in the first two minutes of the second half and didn’t look back, leading by as many as 18 with 11:23 to go and holding the momentum as the minutes waned.
The Hoosiers went 18-for-32 from three-point range on the night, good for 56.3 percent. Blackmon had a good chunk of those, but by the end, just about everyone was involved. Six players had at least one three, including forwards Williams — who had hit only one all season — and Collin Hartman, who had a pair Sunday.
“A lot of times we’d run the guy off the line and then the next pass or the extra pass would be the one that would hurt us,” Gophers senior guard DeAndre Mathieu said. “Guys would be late to react and it was already gone. It was going in tonight.”
In the previous three games, the Gophers used an improved pair of zones — a traditional 2-3 and a matchup zone — to stifle opponents by forcing them to become one-dimensional. Indiana had no problem with that game plan, and the Gophers’ perimeter defense and rebounding were exposed. Center Mo Walker had only one rebound in 28 minutes and forward Joey King — the target of several Pitino rampages — didn’t have any in 31.
Even after the seemingly unstoppable flurry of shots from downtown, the Gophers’ anemic fight on the boards was what stuck with Pitino.
“Obviously, when a team sets a school record for threes, you’re disappointed,” he said. “But the rebounding was what really, really disappointed me ... we did not do a good job of that at all.”