Bloomington – Give Tom Crean credit.
With many of the top preps from the state of Indiana in attendance Sunday, the Hoosier coach wanted a near-capacity, raucous environment and he got it. He took an active role in making that happen, and a season-high crowd of 16,539 showed up dressed in all white to show off the season's best homecourt atmosphere.
But with four members of his 2009 recruiting class along with a slew of younger targets such as Pike H.S. sophomore Marquis Teague and Washington H.S. sophomore Cody Zeller watching, what Crean really hoped to show off was a win over a quality Big Ten opponent.
That, unfortunately, didn't happen.
After connecting on four of his first five 3-point attempts in the game and scoring a game-high 19 points, Devan Dumes missed a contested 25-footer at the top of the key with three seconds left that would have tied the game, and Minnesota (17-3/5-3) escaped with a 67-63 win over Indiana.
"We were trying to get the quickest bucket, we weren't necessarily going for a 3 at first," said Dumes. "We were trying to get the best shot available."
The best shot Indiana could get was a very difficult 3-point attempt, and when it didn't drop the Hoosiers had dropped their ninth straight overall and sixth consecutive in the Big Ten, falling to 5-13 overall and 0-6 in the Big Ten. It's the program's longest losing streak since the 1943-44 season, which also marked the last time Indiana opened league play with six straight conference setbacks. Indiana has also lost five straight at home, equaling its longest losing skid ever in Assembly Hall (1984-85 season).
It's also easily the longest losing streak of Crean's career, who enjoyed a whole lot more success than failure first as an assistant coach at Michigan State and then as the head coach at Marquette for eight years.
It was Dumes who had a shot at potentially sending the game into overtime, but his miss – followed by game-clinching a free-throw by Minnesota's Paul Carter with :02.3 remaining – handed Indiana another tough-to-swallow setback.
"We made the stops when we had to," said Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith. "I thought our defense was suspect, but we got stops at key times."
The most important of times came in the closing seconds, where the Gophers first shut off anything for IU going to the basket, and then kept Dumes or Matt Roth from getting any clean looks before Dumes had to force a tough attempt in the closing seconds.
The loss was a particularly disappointing one for Crean not only because of the narrow margin, but also because of the fact he continues to see his team make progress without the reward of a victory. Crean said Sunday's game was a culmination of a very good week of practice that had his team expecting to get its first win of the conference season.
While that didn't happen, that mindset is progress according to Crean.
"One of the greatest attributes anyone can have is the belief that they belong," Crean said. "This was a day that they really did believe. They played harder, longer and they competed.
"We had a team of guys that battled and I never once didn't believe that they thought they could win."
That was a sentiment that was shared by Malik Story, who came off the bench to score 14 points. He and Dumes connected on a pair of 3-pointers early, helping Indiana to a quick 19-11 lead midway through the first. Half. Indiana ended up 8-of-15 from behind the 3-point arc for the game, helping them stay in the game despite big efforts from the Gopher big men Damian Johnson (18 points, 6 rebounds) and Ralph Sampson III (13 points, eight rebounds, six blocks).
"I think we see we can actually win and play in this league," Story said. "Before, in the beginning, we weren't really sure."
Pritchard 4-8 2-4 10, Taber 2-4 0-0 4, Jones 2-8 2-4 7, Williams 0-7 2-2 2, Dumes 5-11 5-6 19, Roth 1-2 0-0 3, Moore 1-1 0-2 2, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 1-1 0-2 2, Story 6-9 0-1 14, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 11-21 63.
Johnson 7-16 4-5 18, Iverson 0-0 0-0 0, Sampson 6-9 1-1 13, Nolen 1-2 3-6 5, Westbrook 4-7 3-3 12, Carter 1-4 1-2 3, Busch 0-1 0-0 0, Joseph 1-4 0-0 3, Bostick 0-1 0-0 0, Hoffarber 1-3 0-3 3, Abu-Shamala 4-8 1-2 10. Totals 25-55 13-22 67.
3-Pointers: Indiana 8-15 (Dumes 4-6, Story 2-3, Roth 1-2, Jones 1-2, Williams 0-2), Minnesota 4-16 (Abu-Shamala 1-5, Hoffarber 1-3, Westbrook 1-3, Joseph 1-3, Bostick 0-1, Johnson 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 35 (Williams 6), Minnesota 34 (Sampson 8). Assists: Indiana 10 (Taber 2, Jones 2, Dumes 2), Minnesota 13 (Nolen 6). Turnovers: Indiana 16, Minnesota 13. Steals: Indiana 7 (Moore 4), Minnesota 9 (Johnson 2, Nolen 2). Blocks: Indiana 0, Minnesota 8 (Sampson 6). Officials: Tom O'Neill, Steve Olson, Terry Wymer. Attendance: 16,539.
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Hoosiers Come Close, But Come Up Empty
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