The question facing IU Coach Mike Davis is no longer if his team can beat a good team on the road – it's if it can beat anyone away from Assembly Hall.
If Sunday's effort in Minneapolis is any indication, the answer might be no.
With first-place in the Big Ten on the line, Indiana was out-shot, out-rebounded, out-hustled, and terribly out-played by a Minnesota team that was winless in the Big Ten entering Sunday's game at Williams' Arena in Minneapolis.
When the final horn sounded, Minnesota (10-8/1-6) had itself a 61-42 win, Coach Dan Monson fourth win in his last five tries against No. 11 Indiana (12-5/4-3).
"We had no energy, they beat us to every loose ball," said Davis. "They wanted to be 1-6 more than we wanted to be 5-2."
The Hoosiers recorded the second-lowest offensive output of the Mike Davis era. Indiana's 42-point effort was just one point better than the 41 points IU scored in an 80-41 loss to Kentucky Dec. 20, 2003. Indiana also had its third straight double-digit loss on the road in Big Ten play and suddenly found itself in sixth place in the Big Ten.
The team's sixth-place standing though, is the least of its problems. With road trips still to make to Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan – three teams currently tied for the Big Ten lead – Indiana knows it won't get any easier the rest of the way when it ventures outside of the Bloomington city limits.
"It's puzzling because we've played four road games this year," said Davis. "You'd think we'd be ready to play on the road by now. We have no leadership out there on the road."
Minnesota blew the game open in the first half. With Marco Killingsworth sitting on the sidelines with a pair of early fouls, Indiana went scoreless for a seven-minute stretch and Minnesota turned a 17-11 lead into a 30-11 romp with 3:44 remaining in the period. Minnesota made all six of its field goal attempts during that time span, while Indiana missed all seven of its shots and committed four turnovers.
Minnesota would eventually see its lead balloon to as many as 24 in the second half, and Indiana would never seriously challenge a team that had been winless since a 13-point win over Oral Roberts on New Year's Eve.
Minnesota entered the game ranked 10th in the Big Ten in field goal shooting at 42 percent, including a stretch of six straight Big Ten games in which it shot less than 40 percent. But on Sunday, the Gophers shot 61.5 percent in the first half and 51 percent for the game.
Vincent Grier scored a team-high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting and added 10 rebounds, while J'son Stamper (12 points) and Adam Boone (nine assists) played big roles in the Gophers' win.
While Grier, Boone and Stamper are a trio of Monson's regular contributors, the Gophers got a lift early with some surprise lineup changes. Monson started Zach Puchtel and Jamal Abu-Shamala in place of Spencer Tollackson and Maurice Hargrow to try to give his team a spark, and the moves worked. Abu-Shamala hit a 3-pointer less than a minute into the game. Puchtel, a walk-on who had played in only nine games and scored only three points this season, then scored to put Minnesota up 5-4.
"They started a lineup that no way should have started against us, and all that did was encourage those that were on the bench," said Davis.
It was only the beginning of what turned out to be undoubtedly IU's worst effort of the season.
Indiana shot a season-low 32.1 percent from the field and 21.7 percent from behind the 3-point arc. Killingsworth finished with a team-high 15 points and eight rebounds, but much of his production came late in the second half, long after the game had been decided. Robert Vaden added 11 points, but also committed a game-high six turnovers.
"We have to continue to work," said Davis. "We have some guys that don't have confidence and I don't know how to give it to them. We have some guys that need to do some soul searching."
Killingsworth 6-14 3-4 15, Vaden 4-9 0-0 11, Strickland 0-4 0-0 0, Monroe 2-4 0-0 4, Ratliff 1-7 0-0 3, Wilmont 3-8 0-0 6, Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Calloway 0-1 0-0 0, Kline 0-1 0-0 0, Suhr 1-4 0-0 3. Totals 17-53 3-4 42.
Stamper 5-6 2-5 12, Puchtel 2-5 2-4 6, Abu-Shamala 3-6 0-0 7, Grier 7-14 3-6 17, Boone 2-7 0-0 4, Tollackson 4-4 0-0 8, Hargrow 2-6 0-0 4, Coleman 0-2 0-0 0, Tucker 1-1 0-0 3, Saunders 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-51 7-15 61.
Halftime Score: Minnesota 34, Indiana 16. 3-Pointers: Indiana 5-23 (Vaden 3-6, Strickland 0-2, Monroe 0-2, Ratliff 1-5, Wilmont 0-2, Allen 0-1, Calloway 0-1, Suhr 1-4), Minnesota 2-7 (Abu-Shamala 1-2, Boone 0-3, Hargrow 0-1, Tucker 1-1). Rebounds: Indiana 31 (Killingsworth 8), Minnesota 35 (Grier 10). Turnovers: Indiana 18 (Vaden 6), Minnesota 14 (Grier 4). Assists: Indiana 8 (Strickland 5), Minnesota 18 (Boone 9). Officials: Ed Hightower, Steve Welmer, Jim Burr. Attendance: 13,136.
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