Indiana regained its fight tonight at Minnesota but let a late five point lead slip away and fell to the Gophers, 75-74.
After two Thomas Bryant free throws put the Hoosiers up one with 17.1 seconds, Minnesota could only muster a difficult fadeway 3-pointer by Akeem Springs with five seconds remaining. But Eric Curry of the Gophers tipped the board out back to Springs who grabbed it and laid it in with 2.9 second on the clock.
At the other end James Blackmon Jr. got a 25 footer up from the top of the key before the buzzer but it bounced off to give Minnesota the victory.
Indiana falls for the fourth straight game and is now at 15-12 and 5-9 in the Big Ten. Blackmon Jr. led the Hoosiers with 22 points.
"This team came to fight tonight," IU coach Tom Crean said on his postgame radio show. "After this little problem (Michigan), I thought they did against Wisconsin, against Purdue.
"The result is not good but the reality is these guys are fighting and anybody that wouldn't see that is not trying to see it."
The Hoosiers led 69-64 with just over two minutes remaining following a Blackmon 3-pointer from the right side. At the other end, however, freshman Amir Coffey knocked down a 3-pointer to make it just a two point game.
A turnover on a Blackmon post feed to De'Ron Davis was followed by two free throws by Jordan Murphy to regain the lead for Minnesota at 71-70 with 1:06. Bryant and Mason then traded baskets before Bryant knocked down his free throws to set the stage for the winning putback by Springs.
Since the season opening OT win over Kansas, Indiana has struggled to win close contests. Outside its two games against a young Penn State team, the Hoosiers have lost the other six games this season that have been decided by five points or less.
"We've just had a few too many situations where games come down to one or two possessions that we don't get," Crean said. "But I've got a tough group (that) is getting more tough minded all the time."
The Hoosiers went with a new lineup tonight with Robert Johnson and Juwan Morgan coming off the bench with freshmen Devonte Green and De'Ron Davis in the starting lineup.
"We wanted to do something a little bit different on the break and it just didn't work out that way at the beginning," Crean said. "I may mix it again. It's not like anybody lost a spot. I just wanted to spark a couple things. I wasn't trying to send a message. We had a game plan."
Davis picked up two fouls in the first two minutes and ended up fouling out in just nine minutes. Yet he ended up with 10 points including several in the stretch that helped Indiana build the late five point advantage.
Robert Johnson's slump worsened as the junior was scoreless in 26 minutes. He missed five shots from the field and turned it over three times.
"He's got a team full of guys that won't let him (lose his confidence)," Crean said. "He was doing a good job guarding. (Shots) just didn't go. We're not going to let him get down."
Indiana struggled most of the game offensively, finishing with just 34.7 percent shooting from the floor. Minnesota wasn't much better at 38.7 percent. The Hoosiers did pull down 20 offensive boards but once again had a deficit to their opponent in free throw attempts (18 to 28).
The win for Minnesota was key for NCAA tourney at-large hopes as it moves the Gophers to 7-6 in the league and 19-7 overall.
"We were winning those games a year ago with an experienced group," Crean said. "He (Richard Pitino) was not winning those games a year ago. His group is getting more experience and they're healthy. They're beneficiaries of playing together and going through those things. So much of that is what this comes down to. Whether it is the Wisconsins of the world, Purdue, we were that team a year ago and right now we're not.
"We had a chance to be that team at the beginning of the year if we stayed injury free but we didn't."
Indiana now has the weekend off and will return to action next Tuesday night at Iowa.