Williams Arena might be tabbed as ‘The Barn', but Indiana felt more like it had been taken out behind the woodshed Saturday night.
Whatever you want to call it, one of the Big Ten's toughest venues proved unkind to the Hoosiers, as Minnesota jumped on Tom Crean's team early, controlled the game in every facet, and rolled to an 81-58 win.
While Minnesota (16-10/7-7) picked up a very important win as it tries to get back into the NCAA Tournament At-Large selection conversation, Indiana (9-17/3-11) dropped its eighth straight while suffering its 17th setback in its last 18 Big Ten road games dating back to the 2007-08 season.
For the second straight road game, Indiana was out of the game by halftime. Minnesota seemingly did whatever it wanted in the game's opening 20 minutes while opening a 44-25 lead at intermission, and the Hoosiers would get no closer than 13 the rest of the way.
While there was plenty that went wrong for the Hoosiers, it was IU's struggles defensively that had Crean the most frustrated. Minnesota shot 56.4 percent from the floor, making Tubby Smith's team the third straight teams to shoot at least 50 percent from the field against IU.
"We have do a better job of getting up into people and at the same time we have to hold our own and guard the dribble better," Crean said. "We gave up too much penetration and we gave up too many shots."
A lot those easy shots came in the first half when Minnesota took control. Damian Johnson scored 12 of his 16 points, while Lawrence Westbrook added 11 of his game-high 20. Minnesota shot 58.1 percent from the floor in the first half, 63.6 from 3-point range. Hoosier nemesis Blake Hoffarber added a buzzer-beating layup to give Minnesota the 19-point halftime cushion.
Indiana, meanwhile, had no answers. Its two most reliable scorers during the Big Ten slate - Verdell Jones and Christian Watford – combined to miss all 11 of their first-half shots, and made just 3-of-20 for the game. Watford was only 1-of-12 shooting and finished with three points and nine rebounds, while Jones was 2-of-8 from the floor and finished with 10.
Devan Dumes did give the Hoosiers 20 points on 6-of-17 shooting off the bench and Jeremiah Rivers had his best offensive effort of the Big Ten slate with 10 points, but it wasn't nearly enough to keep pace with a Minnesota team that made 31-of-55 shots from the floor and 9-of-20 from 3-point range.
Minnesota's hot shooting started from the opening tip. Johnson scored on a layup on Minnesota's opening possession, and Westbrook added a 3-pointer a minute later to put Minnesota up 5-0. That lead would eventually balloon to 25-9 midway through the first half after a couple of 3s by Johnson and one apiece by Westbrook and Devoe Joseph.
In the second half, Crean opted to start the half with a four-guard lineup that included Jordan Hulls, Dumes, Jones, Rivers and Watford, and that helped IU inch to within 13 following a transition 3-pointer from Hulls 2 ½ minutes into the half. But seven quick points from Westbrook pushed the lead back to 20, and the Hoosiers would get no closer than 18 the rest of the way.
Crean knew that the four-guard line-up would present some significant mismatches in the second half, but he said there were other things that were more important.
"I keep telling these guys I'm not looking at this game from a positional standpoint – I'm looking at it from an energy standpoint and who gives us the best heart and hustle and desire," Crean said. "For a lot of tonight, that's what we did. We had a lot of mismatches, and they took advantage of them.
"But I refuse to play in situation where we're not going to give everything we have and we're going to play scare and we're going to play a little timid. We can't do that. I don't have time for that right now."
Watford 1-12 1-3 3, Pritchard 1-2 0-2 2, Hulls 2-7 0-0 6, Rivers 4-6 2-2 10, Jones 2-8 6-7 10, Barnett 0-1 0-2 0, Finkelmeier 0-0 0-0 0, Moore 0-1 0-0 0, Muniru 1-1 0-0 2, Capobianco 1-3 1-1 3, Elston 1-1 0-0 2, Dumes 6-17 4-5 20, Jobe 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-59 14-22 58.
Johnson 6-11 2-3 16, Sampson 4-7 3-4 11, Joseph 4-7 0-0 9, Westbrook 6-9 4-4 20, Hoffarber 3-4 0-0 6, Carter 1-2 0-1 2, Allen 1-3 0-0 3, Cobbs 1-3 0-0 2, Bostick 2-2 0-0 5, Williams 2-4 0-0 4, Iverson 1-4 1-2 3. Totals 31-56 10-14 81.
3-Pointers: Indiana 6-21 (Dumes 4-9, Hulls 2-6, Watford 0-2, Jones 0-1, Barnett 0-1, Moore 0-1, Capobianco 0-1), Minnesota 9-20 (Westbrook 4-6, Johnson 2-4, Joseph 1-4, Allen 1-2, Bostick 1-1, Hoffarber 0-1, Cobbs 0-1, Williams 0-1). Rebounds: Indiana 32 (Watford 9), Minnesota 40 (Johnson 10). Assists: Indiana 11 (Rivers 4), Minnesota 23 (Sampson 5). Turnovers: Indiana 9, Minnesota 11. Blocks: Indiana 1 (Pritchard), Minnesota 7 (Johnson 3, Sampson 2, Williams 2). Steals: Indiana 5, Minnesota 6.
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