Game MVP - Lance Stemler. D.J. White's 17-point, 10-rebound effort might have been the biggest performance of the day, and White's leadership on the court and in the huddle was critical in keeping the team together as well. But it was Stemler's 3-pointer with 1:28 remaining that gave IU a 61-60 lead, and it was his two free throws with :05.8 remaining that finally secured the victory. That capped an eight-point, two-rebound, two-assist performance by the Hoosiers' co-captain. Stemler's heroics symbolized a game where IU got important contributions from a slew of players. There was White's double-double, Jordan Crawford's 14 first-half points, and even DeAndre Thomas' important five points off the bench. Eric Gordon had arguably his worst game in an IU uniform, but still came up with a huge defensive stop in the final minute and made two free throws in the closing seconds as well. But in a game with plenty of contributors, no play was bigger than Stemler's 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Biggest Surprise… Eric Gordon played like…a freshman. Loads of superlatives have been heaped onto the Hoosier freshman guard, and for good reason – he's one of the best players in college basketball. But for maybe the first time this season, he really struggled against Minnesota. Gordon committed seven turnovers in 29 minutes and made only 3-of-8 shots on his way to 12 points. He picked up two quick fouls to land in the bench 2 ½ minutes into the game, and then picked up a foolish third foul 35 feet from the basket with 5 ½ minutes remaining in the first half to land on the bench. He did come up with a couple of big plays down the stretch, but he also committed five second-half turnovers and missed a pair of 3-pointers in the game's final 3:30, including on that he had blocked. Gordon figures to bounce back in a big way this weekend against Penn State, but he looked very mortal Thursday night.
What I Found Most Impressive… In Sunday's win over Illinois, the Hoosiers didn't play their best and found a way to win. But Thursday, Indiana appeared to have no business coming away with a win after committing 26 turnovers, yet still regrouped to play its best basketball in the game's final 1:48 to come away with the win. Whether you want to call it heart or fortitude or a will to win, Indiana had just enough of it to emerge victorious. If says something about a team as well as its individual players when they can struggle all evening long, yet still have what it takes at crunch time to execute. That's what Indiana did, as it played a nearly flawless final 1:48 to outscore Minnesota 7-0 and secure its third Big Ten road win.
What I Found Most Concerning… The elephant in the Hoosiers' locker room – or at least on the boxscore – was the 26 turnovers that nearly derailed IU's hopes of securing the win. Minnesota's swarming, end-to-end defense is going to force miscues for most teams, but 26 turnovers is borderline unfathomable and unquestionably inexcusable. Indiana's turnovers came in all shapes and sizes. Some were forced by Minnesota's pressure defense, others were a result of ill-advised passes in transition, and many more were produced by simple carelessness. There were plenty of offenders – Eric Gordon had seven turnovers despite spending 11 minutes on the bench in the first half due to foul trouble, and fellow ball-handlers Armon Bassett and Jordan Crawford added four apiece as well. This marked the first time IU has gone up against a team that has applied this much fullcourt pressure, and Indiana's inability to cope with it early and adjust as the game went on is a big concern.
Turning Point: In the first half you thought the turning point was the IU's 17-0 run that produced a double-digit lead, but that was erased by Indiana's inability to make a field goal during an eight-minute, second-half stretch that turned a five-point lead into a four-point deficit. But ultimately, it was the final 1:44 that made all the difference. After Spencer Tollackson's reverse lay-up with 1:47 remaining gave the Gophers and two-point lead and prompted IU to call its fifth and final timeout, the Hoosiers were flawless down the stretch. It started with Stemler's 3-pointer on a play originally designed to go to Gordon. Then, after Minnesota called a 30-second timeout, Gordon hounded Al Nolen for the final 15 seconds of the shot clock and forced him into a leaning desperation 3-point attempt as the 35-second shot clock sounded. Gordon then converted a pair of free-throws to push the lead to three. After Lawrence McKenzie missed an open 3-pointer on the other end, IU came away with the rebound and Stemler secured the win with his two free throws.
"Their pressure bothered us. That's the first team all year that has pressed us, especially with the kind of quickness they have in their backcourt with Lawrence (McKenzie), Westbrook and (Al) Nolen." – IU Coach Kelvin Sampson
"Twenty-six turnovers... I kept telling E.J. (Gordon) and Jordan (Crawford) during timeouts that we're wearing red." - Sampson
"The free throw shooting (11-of-21) is an area we obviously need to work on. But when you turn a team over 26 times and you only turn it over 11 times, we had our chances to pull away." – Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith
"So far this year with the team we've kind of taken over at the end of the game. I'm crushed right now. Just completely heartbroken. I really thought we were going to win. I thought they played better than us but I thought we wanted it a little bit more, played a little bit harder. They did some things we didn't do." – Minnesota center Spencer Tollackson
UPON FURTHER REVIEW: Minnesota
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