WHAT LOOKED GOOD: Once again, it was the first half of a road game that looked pretty good for the Hoosiers. This one was strikingly similar in many respects to the Nebraska game when IU led by as many as 16 in the first half and by 13 at the break. IU had a 13 point lead Saturday night at Minnesota in the first half and a six point edge at intermission. What looked good for the Hoosiers in the first half of this game were the contributions it got from several players. Troy Williams scored the first nine points of the game. Jeremy Hollowell had eight first-half points and played with as much intensity as Indiana fans have seen in quite some time. Even Hanner Mosquera-Perea was active in a role after Noah Vonleh sat out the first 9:21 of the first half after he picked up his second foul. Another area of overall strength in this one was a surprising one actually and that was blocked shots. IU blocked eight shots against a Minnesota team that had somewhat of a height advantage. The eight blocks were the most by the Hoosiers in a game since recording nine against Stony Brook on Nov. 17. Another solid area for Indiana was offensive rebounds and second chance points. IU had 11 offensive boards and 18 second chance points. It was many of those second chance points in the first half in particular that allowed Indiana to building a double-digit lead.
WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:With Indiana it always comes back to one statistic in particular: turnovers. It seems we talk about turnovers in most every loss that the Hoosiers sustain this season. When IU had a second half collapse a week or so back against Nebraska the Hoosiers had 19 turnovers in that game that led to 19 points. Saturday, Indiana had 16 turnovers and those miscues led to 17 Minnesota points. The turnovers really stood out in this one though because for the first 19 minutes, IU only had three. Then it turned it over twice in the final minute of the first half, the first one when Yogi Ferrell was called for carrying the ball and the other when Williams got caught in the air with 15 seconds to play and the Hoosiers trying to go for one shot with an eight-point lead. And everybody was part of this one. Seven different players had at least one turnover and no one had more than three. The leaders were Williams, Vonleh and Stanford Robinson with three each. Indiana also went long periods in the second half without getting a field goal. In fact, IU only scored 24 second-half points and went to the line a total of four times in the final 20 minutes. The latter statistic was quite different than the first half when the Hoosiers went to the foul line 12 times.
FOR STARTERS:Indiana used the same lineup for the fourth game in a row that incorporated three freshmen into the opening group: Williams, Robinson and Vonleh. The other two starters were Ferrell and Will Sheehey. That lineup now has a record of 2-2 which includes home wins over Illinois and Michigan and road losses to Nebraska and Minnesota. Saturday, the starters combined to score 48 of the 60 points. When IU lost on the road at Nebraska, the starters scored 48 of the 55 points. Against Minnesota, the starters hit 18-of-42 shots from the field, which was actually 18-of-41 for four players and a single missed shot by Robinson. As a team, the Hoosiers hit 5-of-14 shots from 3-point range and the starters were 5-of-13 with Ferrell taking the bulk of those at 2-for-9. The only non-starter to shoot a 3 was Evan Gordon in the final seconds with the Hoosiers trailing by four when he had a wide open look from the left wing that clanged off the back iron. The starters were also 7-of-8 from the free throw line and pulled down 24 of the 35 rebounds.
INDIVIDUAL OBSERVATIONS: Here's a look at my own thoughts on a few Indiana players from Saturday's loss to Nebraska:
1. Troy WILLIAMS: Nice start but unfortunately that's all it was, a start. Williams scored the game's first nine points and was active on both ends of the floor. He hit a pull-up jump shot from 14 feet, buried his first 3-pointer in well over a month and had a monster jam off a pass from Yogi Ferrell coming in from the left side on the baseline. The problem is that this was pretty much the end of Good Troy for the game. He finished with 11 points. The other came on a off balance tip shot off a miss by Sheehey down low with 14:58 to play that capped an 8-0 run and put the Hoosiers up by eight at 46-38. Williams was 4-for-6 from the field, hit his only 3-point shot and both of his free throws. He only managed three rebounds in 26 minutes though, tied for the team-high in turnovers, had a block and no assists. His beginning was fun to watch as it brought back memories of the Washington game where he broke loose for a season-high 22 points. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, the performance was short lived. For a while though, I must admit I thought Troy was really enjoying and making himself at home in a venue appropriately called "Williams Arena."
2. Stanford ROBINSON: When Robinson has been at his best this year he has been extremely fluid in getting to the basket and using that quick burst to get to the rim. But when he makes those moves and it's not there, that's when the freshman guard continues to struggle. That was the case Saturday night. Robinson started and played 24 minutes but he had very little to show for his time on the floor. He took one shot and missed it. He had one rebound, one foul, no assists, three turnovers and one steal. Austin Etherington basically gave the Hoosiers the same performance in 6 minutes of action. Often times Robinson has made up for things on the defensive end but that wasn't the case in this one either. In this game, it was the Minnesota guards that seemed to be able to blow by the IU freshman whenever they had the ball.
YOGI FERRELL: Yogi led the Hoosiers with 14 points but he struggled again from the field as he has a few times when Indiana has lost this season. He missed 11 of 16 shots including seven of nine 3-point attempts. He hit some big shots, no doubt. He had a couple of shot clock beaters including a 3-pointer in the first half and a pull-up jump shot with 1:27 to play that brought the Hoosiers back to within two at 60-58. But a couple of times he used his quickness to get the basket and simply was unable to finish. He had one of these at the very end of the game on a play where Vonleh actually wound up with a steal and a bucket. He had another one though where he waited for a bail out on a drive that never came and Minnesota was able to score going the other way. Ironically that score came when Ferrell was called for a foul on Deandre Mathieu and Mathieu hit a pair of free throws as Minnesota went into the bonus with 4:30 remaining. That broke a tie and gave the Gophers a 58-56 lead.
ONE-PLAY WOES: The Minnesota game was the first this season against teams that IU will only face once in Big Ten play and the Hoosiers are now 0-1 in those games. The other three one-plays include a road game at Purdue, and home games with Iowa and Ohio State. Last year, IU was 2-2 in one-plays, beating Northwestern on the road and Nebraska at home but losing to Wisconsin at home and Illinois on the road.
NEXT UP: Indiana (14-9, 4-6 Big Ten) returns home to take on Penn State on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. at Assembly Hall. The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network. IU won at Penn State on Jan. 11, 79-76, marking IU's only Big Ten road win to date.
Follow Terry Hutchens at Twitter.com/Foxsportshutch