In the end, one of the little things cost Indiana a lot.
The Hoosiers had trudged back from a nine-point second-half deficit to lead with seconds to play at Minnesota.
They hadn’t necessarily played well — neither team did for long stretches — but one stop and a team trying to stop a free fall would have a conference road win.
With the clock running down, Indiana kept the ball from Minnesota’s best offensive players.
Akeem Springs — 1-for-11 from the floor to that point — dribbled left and took a fadeaway 3 from near the left corner over IU’s James Blackmon Jr. The ball hit the front of the round and bounced high.
Six-foot-9 freshman forward Eric Curry, Minnesota’s third-leading rebounder, came from the left wing, around IU forward Juwan Morgan and tapped the ball.
Blackmon didn’t block out Springs, who got a free run at the ball, caught it and laid it in with 2.9 seconds on the clock.
Minnesota 75, Indiana 74.
Officials put 3.2 seconds on the clock, and Blackmon got off a runner at the buzzer a couple steps behind the 3-point line but it was long, leaving Spring’s putback as the game-winner.
The failure to block out on Minnesota’s final possessions was the most glaring of IU’s errors in the late going.
Blackmon went under a screen that allowed Amir Coffey to hit a key late 3.
IU had a turnover trying to throw an entry pass to the post.
Robert Johnson had a turnover at one point just throwing the ball to Blackmon out front, earlier in the game.
Little things. But they added up in this game.
The failure to block out at the end at Minnesota was similar to a play in IU’s 69-64 home loss to Purdue when 5-foot-10 point guard P.J. Thompson got free for a rebound and layup with 2:30 to play to put the Boilermakers up by four. Purdue never led by less than two the rest of the way in that game.
“He made a play,” IU coach Tom Crean said of Springs. “It’s crazy. He’s a really good player. It was his second basket of the game. They did a great job. He’s done an excellent job.
“We were winning those games a year ago with an experienced group, those close games like that. He was not winning those games a year ago. His group is getting more experienced. They’re healthy, and they’re the beneficiaries of playing together and going through those things.
“So much of that is what this comes down to, whether it’s the Wisconsins of the world, the Purdues. We were that team a year ago. Right now we’re not. We had a chance to be that team at the beginning of the year with everything if we stay injury free. We didn’t.”
Springs’ putback capped a run of Minnesota scoring on its final five possessions of the game.
Indiana, ranked No. 3 in the nation on Nov. 21, has lost six of its past seven and 10 of its past 15 to fall to 15-12 and 5-9 in the Big Ten.
“They’re crushed,” Crean said. “My No. 1 job is to be their cheerleader, to remind them, as I tell them, if they can’t find a spot, if they can’t read anything or hear from anybody that is going to give them anything less than they came out there and battled — the stuff we missed on is correctable. This team came to fight tonight, absolutely fight.”
“These guys came to play. … The result is not good, but the reality is, these guys are fighting. Anybody that wouldn’t see that is not trying to see that.”
“It’s tough. It’ll probably hit me somewhere in the air flying home. These guys are doing everything we’re asking them to do and then some. Their attitudes are fantastic. There is a hunger and there’s a certain toughness. The stuff is correctable.”
Blackmon’s offensive productivity was close to his usual self in his third game back after missing three with a lower leg injury.
The junior guard scored 22 points, shooting 4-for-11 from the arc, and had six rebounds.
“It’s so much about his health,” Crean said. “Could he play better? Well, obviously. I think (assistant) Tim Buckley said it best, and I think this is where common sense really kicks into this, you don’t go from averaging 18 or whatever he was averaging to averaging five and have everything be going right. He came back, and it’s rare you’re going to come back and be ready to play at that level.
“He’s a little bit healthier today than he was Sunday, but it’s a proces sof getting that back or he wouldn’t have missed that time he missed.
“The response attitudally, the way he worked on his shooting, absolutely, absolutely. The matchups he wanted tonight, the initiative he took and things of that nature, completely proud of him.”
Wednesday’s loss started a stretch of four road games over IU’s final five regular-season contests.
The Hoosiers play at Iowa on the Tuesday, face Northwestern at home on Feb. 25 then close the season with road games at Purdue and Ohio State.
Watch: The game-winning basket for Minnesota: