Key MomentIt came right after a Blake Hoffarber three-pointer capped a four-point possession for the Gophers. Right after Austin Hollins gathered a long rebound and pushed it up court for a three-point play on a lay-up and foul to cap a 13-2 run that closed the IU lead to just 55-53. This was the key moment for the Hoosiers because it was the definition of gut check time for Indiana. After having almost everything go their way in this game, the Gophers had finally punched back and punched back hard. Assembly Hall was tense as the last three years have seen the Hoosiers not be able to hold onto a win too many times to count.
This time was different, though. Indiana pushed back instead of giving in and doubled down on their defensive efforts. They also came up with the big shot when they needed it, a clutch three from Verdell Jones. And most importantly, on the last play of the game the Hoosiers made sure that Hoffarber didn't ruin another night by sticking to his jersey on the last shot. Props to walk-on Daniel Moore for once again doing just enough to stop another last second heave in the Hall to preserve an upset against a ranked opponent.
When It Was OverMinnesota pulled down a rebound with 13 seconds left on the clock and immediately broke down the court looking for a 3-point shot to tie the game. Hulls initial defense caused some hesitancy and the Gophers called a timeout with 5.8 seconds remaining.
Out of the timeout Minnesota had Hoosier Heartbreaker Blake Hoffarber inbound the ball to little used Maverick Ahanmisi, a clear ploy to get the ball back to the inbounder. Ahanmisi's pass though skipped off a cutting Hoffarber's feet and by the time he gathered the ball in the corner all he could was force a shot over IU's Daniel Moore, who was tightly guarding. Hoffarber's shot fell just short this time, sealing the win for IU.
MVPWith Christian Watford missing his first game with a broken hand the Hoosiers had to have a big game from junior big man Tom Pritchard. Few could have predicted how emphatically he would answer that call. Only Jordan Hulls logged more minutes than Pritchard's 30, yet he would finish the game with just three fouls—a minor miracle for IU's perpetually foul-troubled forward. Staying out of foul trouble allowed him to be an invaluable help on defense for a seemingly overmatched IU frontcourt as Minnesota's twin towers of Ralph Sampson III and Colton Iverson combined to go just 5-15 from the field. Offensively he was damn near a revelation, going 5-5 from the field for 12 points, several of them coming off his four offensive rebounds. Key baskets, clutch rebounds, and solid defense against Minnesota's front line equaled the most impressive performance from Pritchard in quite some time as his renaissance continues.
Why They WonIntangibles. If you just looked at the game statistics and not the final score you would have a very hard time knowing who won. Both teams shot under 40 percent from the field, the rebounding and turnover margins were nearly non-existent, and even IU's advantage in steals (7-4) was cancelled in the blocks department (0-5). It makes sense not just because it was a mere three point margin of victory, but because the difference between winning and losing this game for IU was in the immeasurables, things like heart, hustle, and will to win. From the opening tip it was easy to see which team appeared to just plain want it more. A short-handed IU team shouldn't be able to compete on the boards with the Big Ten's tallest roster, but their effort allowed them to do so. A combination of dogged defense, uncanny confidence, and sheer determination fueled this Hoosier win.
Biggest SurpriseOK, this is easy. Didn't anyone get the license plate number on that truck in a white jersey that dunked all over Ralph Sampson III? Out of nowhere Pritchard sprinted from the top of the key to gather a rebound with two hands and then slammed it down one-handed with authority on an unsuspecting Sampson. Sampson wasn't the only person that didn't see that coming. The building instantly ignited as it lit a spark under the crowd that would last for the rest of the night and set the tone for the upset-minded Hoosiers.
Most Promising DevelopmentWe won't be so general as to needlessly say that defeating the second consecutive Top 25 opponent at home without three starters (four if you count the ineligible Guy Marc-Michel) is a very promising development, so how about the return of Verdell Jones III? The IU junior not only made his comeback after a three-game hiatus, but he was a key contributor. Jones had two huge baskets at the end of each half. His three-pointer at the end of the first half helped reverse a small Gopher surge and extended the IU lead to double digits in the locker room. Even bigger was his three-pointer after Jordan Hulls made the extra pass to find him as the shot clock expired with just two minutes left. It gave IU a 60-54 lead and they didn't need to score again to pull off the upset.
Most Concerning DevelopmentIn looking for negatives in a very positive effort and result you could point to IU's poor overall three-point shooting (5-24), but you just don't feel concerned because we know these Hoosiers can shoot from deep. That shouldn't be an ongoing problem for this team, but what has been an ongoing situation is their propensity to cough up big leads in the second half.
Once again IU found themselves with a double digit lead quickly cut down to nothing in crunch time. They escaped thanks to some gritty individual efforts and an out-of-synch offensive night from the Gophers. To really turn the corner and start winning more Big Ten games than they lose on a consistent basis this team is going to have to be able to sustain their prosperity. Right now they are team that can build a lead quickly, but lose it even quicker.