Upon Further Review: Minnesota

Indiana started well and finished even better in its 81-78 overtime win against Minnesota Sunday at Assembly Hall . Hoosier Nation looks back at Indiana's 81-78 overtime win and talks about what we found to be most impressive, surprising and concerning about the contest. We also name our game MVP…

Game MVP - Verdell Jones. With his team reeling in overtime, Jones put the Hoosiers on his back and carried them to a win over the Gophers. Jones scored six of his game-high 24 points in an 88-second span in overtime that turned a three-point IU deficit into a one-point lead. In addition to his overtime exploits, Jones added seven rebounds, three assists, and made 13-of-19 from the free-throw line. He fouled out both Gopher center Ralph Sampson III (17 points, five rebounds, two blocks) and top reserve Paul Carter (nine points, 10 rebounds) in overtime by attacking the rim and getting fouled. It was an effort that was every bit as good as his 20-point, eight-rebound, five-assist performance in IU's other Big Ten win against Michigan. Jones demanded the ball at the most critical points in the game and delivered for Tom Crean's squad.

Biggest Surprise… Indiana's ability to regroup in overtime. Devoe Joseph's back-t0-back 15-footers in the final minute of regulation capped a Gopher rally from 15 down in the second half and sent the game to overtime. Not only had Indiana failed to make a field goal in the final 6:38 of regulation, but it had already lost both Tom Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco to fouls. The momentum was clearly on the Gophers' side, and the contest seemed all but over when Joseph hit back-to-back 3s in overtime to give Minnesota a 76-71 lead. But Derek Elston found Jeremiah Rivers open under the basket for a layup to cut the lead to three, and Verdell Jones then scored six straight to give Indiana a one-point edge with 32 seconds remaining. After limping across the finish line in regulation and suffering late-game collapses against both Illinois and Michigan, there was little reason to think Indiana had the fortitude to respond to the Gophers' late charge. But with Jones leading the way, Indiana managed to do just that and get a gut-check type of win.

What I Found Most Impressive… Indiana's dominance on the glass. Truth be told, the Hoosiers were nearly perfect in the first half of this game on the glass while building a 21-9 edge. In the game's first 14 minutes, Indiana missed only seven of 16 shots, and it came away with the offensive rebound on every one of those misses. Indiana wound up dominating Minnesota 42-31 in the game, including a 20-10 edge on the offensive end. Christian Watford led the way with 10 rebounds, including a critical defensive rebound in the closing seconds of overtime following a Devoe Joseph miss. But Watford got plenty of help. After going without a rebound in 21 minutes at Michigan Thursday, Tom Pritchard pulled down six in 21 minutes Sunday. Verdell Jones and Jeremiah Rivers had seven rebounds apiece, while Derek Elston added five more off the bench. Minnesota entered the game with a +1.4 rebounding margin on the season, but Tubby Smith's team was dominated by an Indiana team that ranked ninth in the conference in the category. That effort on the glass set the tone early and put Indiana in a position to get an impressive homecourt win.

What I Found Most Concerning… For the second straight home game, Indiana nearly squandered a 15-point second half lead. Indiana went through a couple of long droughts – after a Derek Elston layup gave IU a 59-44 lead with 14:04 left, IU missed its next eight field goal attempts while Minnesota cut the margin to seven. Then, after the lead was upped to 11 following a Minnesota goal tend at the 6:38 mark, IU missed all five of its shots, turned the ball over three times, and missed two of four free throws to allow Minnesota to tie it at 70 heading into overtime. On a couple of occasions late in the game Indiana couldn't get a good look at the basket, as Watford had a rush a shot to try to beat the 35-second shot clock on one possession, and then Jones missed on a 3-point attempt on IU's next possession just before the shot clock expired. Indiana made up for it with an impressive overtime rally, but the Hoosiers need to find ways to halt the long scoring droughts that they have endured recently.

Turning Point: Jones' six straight points that turned a 78-73 deficit into a 79-78 Indiana lead. Jones started by fouling out Carter while corralling an offensive rebound off a Derek Elston miss. Jones made both free throws , and then after a Colton Iverson turnover he knocked down a 13-footer in the lane to get Indiana within one. Jeremiah Rivers blocked a Joseph layup on the other end, and Jones then dropped a 14-footer while being fouled by Joseph with 32 seconds left to give Indiana the lead. The Hoosiers had been struggling to get quality shots at the end of regulation and in simply finding some offensive production, but Jones stepped to the forefront and answered.

Quotable:
"I felt the team was tensing a little bit. Me and Devan (Dumes) really brought us together and said, look, just relax, breath, and we have to play. We have to do what got us the lead in the first half." – Verdell Jones

"The competitive spirit in me, I didn't want to lose another game like that again. We did that against Illinois, and my stomach was sick for two straight days. I didn't' want that to happen again, I think the whole team that was out there didn't want it to happen again." – Jones

"(Rebounding) was a point of emphasis. We knew going into this game in order to be successful in this game we had to out-rebound them." – Christian Watford

"Verdell is more of a lead by example type guy. He did a great job today. He made big plays down the stretch." – Watford

"Confidence has been really big for (Verdell). I think early in the year, first five or six games, he was kind of struggling with his confidence, just finding his place and what he needs to do to help us. I think the last 6-7 games, he's done a great job, come into his role and filling a void." – Jeremiah Rivers

"(Verdell Jones is) talented, he's very talented. He's long and athletic. He's a very heady player, a very smart player. He knows how to draw the foul. You hedge on the pick and roll and he knows how to use his body and force you to foul him." – Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith

"The number one key for us today was the rebounding. That became a bigger battle cry, especially after Northwestern out-rebounded Purdue the way they did yesterday. That's the kind of mentality we have to have. That's where learning from the other teams in the league really takes shape for us, and we have to develop that mentality. Our belief was that if Northwestern could outrebound a great team like that, a great rebounding team, then we better figure out how to do the same thing against a team like Minnesota." – IU Coach Tom Crean


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