Once again, the No. 1 team in the nation fell. The Indiana Hoosiers were simply beat up by a Minnesota team that just wanted the win more. IU attempted a furious comeback, but they ultimately fell short as the Hoosiers lost 77-73.
Minnesota (19-9, 7-8) dominated the paint and there was nothing that Indiana (24-4, 12-3) could do about it. Indiana was out rebounded 38-25 and Minnesota snagged 17 offensive rebounds, leading to 21 second chance points. The Gophers also got to the rim at will, scoring 40 points in the paint.
Cody Zeller and Christian Watford could do nothing to stop Trevor Mbakwe or even Elliott Eliason. Mbakewe, who should have spent the first half in foul trouble, finished the game with 21 points and 12 rebounds. Eliason keyed a big rally for Minnesota in the second half when he scored seven points in a row, his only ones of the night.
Watford spent much of the first half in foul trouble for doing the same things that Mbakwe was easily getting away with throughout the game. Watford had back-to-back three's in the final minute of play, but it was too little too late. Watford finished with eight points.
Zeller was thoroughly dominated all night by Minnesota's big men, prompting chants of "over-rated" from the student section. He was simply out muscled and out worked. It has been a knock on him all season, but his play recently suggested that Zeller's toughness was improving. He finished with just nine points and seven rebounds. He did manage three steals and a block, but was ineffective while defending the post.
Zeller, Watford, and Yogi Ferrell all had an extremely rough night shooting the ball. The three combined to shoot 7-for-24. Ferrell found success getting to the basket, but was unable to finish. The freshman did manage to dish out five assists and grabbed four rebounds to go along with his 10 points.
Victor Oladipo failed to impose his will on the game for the first time in weeks. It was just the fourth time this season that Oladipo failed to record a steal, but he did manage a number of deflections that ended up in the hands of fellow Hoosiers. Oladipo put up 16 points and managed five rebounds.
Jordan Hulls appeared to be the only Hoosiers who was ready to play Tuesday night. The senior put up 17 points connecting on 5-of-7 shots from the three point line.
This was a tough loss for Indiana and its fans. Minnesota is a very talented team that simply needed this win more than the Hoosiers did. This will probably be the marquee victory that vaults the Gophers into the NCAA tournament.
IU is still leading the Big Ten, but they now have less margin for error. The Hoosiers currently hold a one game lead over Michigan State with three games left to play.
Indiana is back in action on Saturday when they host Iowa.
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