Indiana found out Sunday it could win when it didn't play its best.
On Thursday, Coach Kelvin Sampson's team learned it's also capable of winning when it plays its worst.
Despite a season-high 26 turnovers and an eight-plus minute second half stretch without a field goal, Indiana came up with just enough plays down the stretch to escape Williams Arena with a 65-60 win.
With the win, Indiana (15-1/4-0) won for just the second time in its last nine trips to Williams Arena against Minnesota (12-4/2-2) and extended its win streak to 11.
The victory came courtesy the most unlikely of heroes – Lance Stemler. A virtual non-factor most of the night, Stemler knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 1:28 left to give the Hoosiers a 61-60 lead. After a defensive stop on the other end followed by a pair of Eric Gordon free throws that extended the lead to three, Stemler secured the Hoosiers' third Big Ten road win of the year with two free throws with :05.8 left on the clock.
Stemler's heroics enabled Indiana to pull out a win it appeared destined to lose thanks Minnesota's tenaciousness on defense and the Hoosiers' carelessness on offense.
"The thing I like about this team is I don't know if I've had a team turn it over 26 times on the road and win," said Sampson. "That says something about this team's heart."
As badly as IU struggled keeping its hands on the ball, it did enough other things well enough to give itself a chance down the stretch. D.J. White had another double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds, leading IU to a commanding 42-26 edge on the boards. Jordan Crawford, meanwhile, scored 16 points and helped the Hoosiers withstand Eric Gordon's first-half foul trouble by knocking down three straight 3-pointers during a 17-0 IU run that helped produce a 40-32 halftime lead.
And although Gordon struggled with just 12 points on 3-of-8 shooting and committed a game-high seven turnovers, he forced the Gophers' Al Nolen into a desperation 3-point attempt in the final minute with his defense and then converted two late free throws to extend the Hoosiers' margin.
Minnesota did its part to aid the Hoosiers' cause, going just 3-of-17 from 3-point range and missing 10 of 21 free throws. Spencer Tollackson was the primary culprit, going 0-of-7 from the charity stripe.
"We're making mistakes, but we played with big hearts," Sampson said. "D.J. was a great leader. Eric didn't play particularly well, but made the big free throws and defended well."
Gordon's late defensive stop and free throws were all a part of a 7-0 IU run in the game's final 1:48 that enabled the Hoosiers to overcame a 60-58 deficit.
"I though the last two minutes we played perfect," Sampson said. "We ran our stuff, we moved…and we got stops. There were a lot of positives in the last two minutes."
There's also a lot of positives in the fact Indiana has moved into a first-place tie with Wisconsin the Big Ten, and three of those four wins have come on the road. A year ago Indiana won just two Big Ten games away from Assembly Hall on its way to a 10-6 league mark.
With the Hoosiers' now set to play at home for the next three games, they have a chance to solidify its position as the team to beat for the Big Ten title.
"We're learning lessons as we're winning," Sampson said. "That's how you have great years."
M. White 0-0 0-0 0, D. White 7-12 3-4 17, Ellis 0-5 2-2 2, Gordon 3-8 4-5 12, Bassett 2-6 0-0 5, Crawford 6-12 0-0 16, Stemler 2-2 2-2 8, Ratliff 0-0 0-0 0, Thomas 2-2 1-1 5, McGee 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-47 12-14 65.
Abu-Shamala 0-1 0-0 0, Coleman 7-14 1-1 15, Tollackson 6-10 0-7 12, Westbrook 1-7 2-2 5, McKenzie 3-10 5-6 11, Nolen 1-4 0-0 2, Payton 0-0 0-1 0, Williams 0-2 0-0 0., Hoffarber 2-5 1-1 7, Johnson 3-5 2-3 8, Busch 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-58 11-21 60.
3-Pointers: Indiana 9-22 (Crawford 4-6, Gordon 2-6, Stemler 2-2, Bassett 1-5, Ellis 0-3), Minnesota 3-17 (Hoffarber 2-3, Westbrook 1-3, McKenzie 0-5, Johnson 0-2, Nolen 0-2, Abu-Shamala 0-1, Coleman 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 42 (D. White 10), Minnesota 26 (Coleman 7). Assists: Indiana 18 (Ellis 6), Minnesota 16 (Nolen 5). Turnovers: Indiana 26, Minnesota 11. Blocks: Indiana 5, Minnesota 3. Steals: Indiana 5, Minnesota 10. Attendance: 14,625. Officials: Mike Roberts, Steve olson, Jaime Luckie. Halftime Score: Indiana 40, Minnesota 32
IU Overcomes Turnovers, Tops Gophers 65-60
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