Mathieu, Minnesota overcome Indiana 66-60
Maurice Walker pitched in 14 points and eight rebounds, and Andre Hollins added 10 points for the Gophers (16-8, 5-6 Big Ten), who lost to Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue over the last two weeks by a total of eight points. This time, they came through in the closing minutes.
Yogi Ferrell led the Hoosiers (14-9, 4-6) with 14 points and four assists, but he went just 2-for-9 from 3-point range. Noah Vonleh had 12 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks, and Will Sheehey and Troy Williams each scored 11 points, but the Hoosiers had 11 turnovers in the second half.
The Gophers took their first lead, 50-49, with less than 11 minutes left when Malik Smith faked a shot and with a mid-air pass found Walker wide open for an uncontested layup. Smith banked in a 3-pointer a little later.
Then with 3:14 remaining, Hollins, just like Smith did a few minutes earlier, passed up a jumper and threaded the ball inside for Elliott Eliason and another easy layup for a 60-56 Gophers lead.
Vonleh's layup off a steal underneath the basket brought the Hoosiers within 62-60 with 41 seconds left, but the super-quick Mathieu's water bug-like drive for a layup with 11.6 seconds remaining pushed the lead back to four.
The Hoosiers fell to 2-7 away from Assembly Hall this season.
They led comfortably for the whole first half, by double digits at times, a product of effective attacking of the basket that got them to the free-throw line often. They made half of their eight 3-point attempts before the break, too, including a shot-clock beater by Ferrell as he fell down to put Indiana up 31-20.
The Gophers went long stretches without making any jumpers and again needed Walker to take over the low post for them to get in a rhythm with the ball. Walker threw down two dunks in the final 2:35 of the half, including one with 2 seconds left to bring the Gophers within 36-30.
Coach Richard Pitino sent Walker out instead of Eliason for the start of the second half, and Walker's tip-in provided the first points.
The stakes weren't nearly the same as last February when the Hoosiers arrived at Williams Arena ranked first in the Associated Press poll. The Gophers put together their best performance of that season for a 77-73 victory they likely wouldn't have made the NCAA tournament without, and the fans swarmed the court in celebration afterward.
The atmosphere felt almost the same, though, with a capacity crowd packed into the old arena on another cold night.
Louisville coach Rick Pitino was in attendance to watch his son Richard guide the Gophers, with another son Ryan sitting next to him -- wearing a bright yellow chicken suit. Former Minnesota coach Clem Haskins, whose 1989 team that reached the NCAA regional semifinals was honored at a halftime ceremony, was here, too, along with several players from that season.
The Gophers needed to win this in the worst way, with the Big Ten's ballooning middle threatening to push them aside after a strong start highlighted by decisive home wins over Ohio State and Wisconsin. Losing leading scorer Andre Hollins proved costly in narrow losses at Nebraska and against Northwestern, and his return Wednesday from a sprained left ankle wasn't enough in a three-overtime loss at Purdue. Looming down the stretch are road games against Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan, with the rematch against the rival Badgers on deck next week.
Indiana had five days to rest from, and savor, a potentially season-turning win over Michigan. The Hoosiers have become an afterthought in the Big Ten race without Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller and their two other top-four scorers, but Ferrell has been doing his best to keep them in it, highlighted by his 27 points and stifling defense against the Wolverines. Indiana has a manageable week ahead: at Penn State and back home against rival Purdue.
Dave Campbell on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/DaveCampbellAP