MINNEAPOLIS --- Wins in the Big Ten have not come easy for Indiana this season.
Three of its four conference victories entering Saturday’s game were decided by 10 points or less.
The Hoosiers’ road game against Minnesota was yet another illustration, as they held on to defeat the Gophers 70-63 at Williams Arena.
“We’re really proud of this win, because we had to earn it,” Indiana head coach Tom Crean said. “And we knew we would have to here.”
Saturday marked the first time since 2013 that Indiana (15-3, 5-0 Big Ten) won five conference games in a row.
Overall, the Hoosiers have won 10 games in a row, the first time they’ve reached a double-digit win streak since the 2011-12 season when they won 12 in a row. The Gophers (6-12, 0-6) suffered their 12th loss of the season and remain winless in the Big Ten.
To get to its 10th consecutive win, Indiana had to rely heavily on senior guard Yogi Ferrell, who finished with a game-high 20 points and added seven assists and six rebounds.
Ferrell’s seven assists put him at 544 total in his Indiana career, surpassing Quinn Buckner’s 542 for second on Indiana’s all-time assist list. He needs two assists to surpass Michael Lewis, who had 545, to become the program’s all-time leader.
“I just wanted to attack more and find my teammates,” Ferrell said after the game. “I wanted to play more downhill against their bigs, try and get fouled and find my shooters.”
Ferrell worked hard to find his shooters, playing 37 minutes – the second-most minutes he’s played in a single game this season. But early on, the shots weren’t falling like they normally do.
The Hoosiers missed six of their first seven shots as Minnesota jumped out to a 5-0 lead.
By the midway point of the first half, Indiana was 4 of 16 from the field and trailed by nine. But an unlikely source triggered the most important run of the game.
IU fifth-year guard Nick Zeisloft was 4 of 21 from the field over IU’s last three Big Ten games entering Saturday, which translated to 11 points in 54 minutes of playing time through those three games.
On Saturday, it took him a little over two minutes to exceed that total.
He connected on four consecutive 3-pointers to pull Indiana within one. By halftime, Indiana and Minnesota were tied at 34 thanks to Zeisloft’s effort.
“He was like our defibrillator,” fifth-year forward Max Bielfeldt said of Zeisloft’s performance. “We had a little irregular heartbeat, he hit those big ones and that got us going. We just kind of fed off that and tried to bring that energy up.”
Zeisloft finished with 15 points, exceeded his point total across his previous four Big Ten games combined. Asked if they were confident Zeisloft would break out of his shooting slump, which was 5 of 27 overall through those four games, Biefeldt said “Oh, yeah.”
“He works too hard not to,” Bielfeldt said. “He’ll literally be in his seat in the locker room, I kid you not, and he’s working on the wrist. He puts so much time into having that perfect fundamental shot, so we knew it was eventually going to happen.”
Crean said the response and leadership of Indiana’s seniors was huge.
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“You know it could’ve been played better, but I’m not sure they could’ve led better as far as today,” Crean said. “Obviously I’ll feel different tomorrow. We’ll have to lead better Tuesday night.”