Indiana (18-10; Big Ten: 8-7) played good basketball in the first half. The Hoosiers spread the ball around the floor, finding open shooters and Jeff Newton down low. Yet, they continued to give up several offensive rebounds and loose balls to Minnesota. Nevertheless, the Hoosiers led 43-33 with under a minute remaining.
Overcoming a double digit halftime lead is very difficult for any team and Indiana seemed poised to enter the break with a ten point lead as they forced Minnesota to work deep into the shot clock on its final possession. With less than 30 seconds remaining in the half, Marshall Strickland was called for a hand checking foul against Michael Bower, resetting the shot clock for Minnesota. The Gophers held the ball for the last shot, penetrated inside and kicked the ball out to Bauer for an open 3-pointer. Bauer nailed the shot and gave Minnesota momentum heading into half time.
The Gophers carried this momentum into the second half, reeling off seven straight points in the first two minutes of the second half. The game was tied, Minnesota was confident and Assembly Hall was silent.
During Indiana's next possession, Tom Coverdale hit a pivotal three. The crowd was back in the game, but Minnesota's Maurice Hargrow answered at the other end with a layup.
IU continued to fire 3-pointers while Minnesota got the ball inside for dunks and layups. Although the Hoosiers hit 13 of their 23 attempts, they have to start getting the ball inside more. Perhaps more importantly, they need to prevent their opponent from scoring so often in the paint.
George Leach is a formidable shot blocker, but he can be a liability when he chases guards penetrating inside. Several times Minnesota's big men floated to about 8 feet out and then hit short jumpers after their guards drew Leach's attention inside.
Despite making only 8 of 27 3-point attempts, Minnesota stayed in the game by successfully attacking Indiana down low. Rick Rickert and Jerry Holman dominated inside combining for 32 points in 49 minutes of play. The Gophers exploited Indiana's zone defense, finding open looks both inside and from the perimeter; however, they could not capitalize on their open looks from deep.
Each time Minnesota came close to taking the lead, Indiana responded with a 3-pointer. But what will they do when those 3-pointers don't fall come Big Ten Tourney time?
Minnesota cut the lead to 71-68 late in the game after Rickert made two strong moves inside scoring consecutive buckets. While Indiana could not miss from 3-point range, Minnesota could not buy a three. The Gophers missed two 3-pointers on their next possession, allowing Bracey Wright and Coverdale to seal the game at the free throw line.
Several fans remarked after the game that with a win against Penn State on Saturday, Indiana will have the same record they had last season (19-10). True, the record is the same, but the team is not playing the same caliber of basketball. The Hoosiers started off slowly last season at 7-5 and surged into the tournament playing their basketball of the season.
This year's team started 8-0 and still has not reached the level of play it did earlier in the season. Yet, Indiana does have two straight wins, meaning they will have a three-game win streak heading into the Big Ten Tournament if they beat Penn State on Saturday. Penn State is not a guaranteed win by any means as the Nittany Lions beat conference leader Wisconsin 58-57 earlier this season.
Perhaps this momentum will elevate Indiana's game in the Big Ten Tournament. After the game Coach Davis addressed the crowd, relaying a comment Tom Coverdale made to him earlier in the season.
"This team will play its best basketball in March, just like last year's team."
Hoosier fans certainly hope so.
Hoosiers Shoot Well Enough To Win
Peegs.com Top Stories
Coach TV: Johns talks offensive woes, TerpsEarlier today offensive coordinator Kevin Johns met with the media as Indiana works to solve its offensive woes and prepares for the challenge ahead with Maryland on Saturday.
Video intro: Sophomore walk-on Johnny JagerToday we begin our video profiles of some of the Hoosier newcomers with an interview with walk-on transfer Johnny Jager.
Hoosiers in the NFL: Week 7Each week Peegs.com checks in on the all the action in the NFL and how former Hoosier players are doing around the league. This week we take a look at how eight former Indiana…
Hoosier Newsstand, Oct. 25Get the latest articles on Indiana basketball, football and other sports in today's edition of the Hoosier Newsstand.