Gophers can’t keep pace with Indiana in 80-56 loss
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — The Indiana Hoosiers showed everyone Friday night fundamental basketball still wins.
Crisp passes still lead to easy baskets. Strong defense only makes everything simpler for everyone.
In this one, they got both. Devonte Green and Juwan Morgan each scored 19 points and each finished with career-highs in assists as the Hoosiers pulled away from Minnesota 80-56.
“Sharing the ball was something we talked a lot about, especially after the Michigan State game,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said. “I think now you’re seeing guys looking for others and that’s a good thing.”
Miller, a former college point guard, has been stressing that point all season. It’s only now that Indiana (14-12, 7-7 Big Ten) is starting to see the payoff.
It rebounded from a four-game losing streak by winning twice in five days — both by margins of more than 20 points for the first time in consecutive league games since January 2016. The Hoosiers finished with 21 assists — including seven from Green and five from Morgan — for their second-highest single-game total this season. They also limited Minnesota to 30 percent shooting in the second half and 33.3 percent for the game.
Not surprisingly, it didn’t take long for Indiana to seize control.
The Hoosiers never trailed, were tied only once and after scoring the first six points of the second half to make it 45-29 and refused to let Minnesota make a run.
“Our energy level’s up. I think that’s something we’ve struggled with all year,” Miller said when asked about the Hoosiers’ improved defense. “I think you’re seeing a lot more deflections, a lot more blocked shots and we’ve got more experience playing together.”
The short-handed Golden Gophers (14-13, 3-11) were outmanned.
Nate Mason had 18 points and eight rebounds while Jordan Murphy finished with 12 points and nine rebounds. But after falling behind 12-4 in the opening minutes, Minnesota only got close once — when an 11-5 first-half spurt cut the deficit to 27-24 with 4:20 to go.
But Indiana answered with a 12-2 flurry and the Gophers couldn’t close within single-digits again.
“Our offense was bad and I think it affected our defense,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “We’re not able to disrupt. They were hurting us on ball-screen stuff, we were just a little late. That was obvious.”
Minnesota: The Golden Gophers are 1-10 since Reggie Lynch’s suspension and things got even worse at Indiana. Starting guard Amir Coffey missed his fourth straight game with an injured shoulder and his replacement, Dupree McBrayer, sat out with a stress reaction in his left shin. It’s just too much for Minnesota to overcome.
Indiana: The Hoosiers suddenly have some momentum heading into their four regular-season games. The timing couldn’t be better. After facing Illinois at home, the Hoosiers head to Iowa and Nebraska before wrapping up at home against No. 14 Ohio State. Could three more wins make them an NCAA Tournament bubble team? Maybe. But it would almost certainly get them some postseason bid.
Minnesota: Isaiah Washington had 14 points. … The Gophers were 6 of 21 on 3-pointers with 14 turnovers. … Minnesota lost its fourth straight road game in the series and has lost four of the last six overall. … It was the Gophers first Friday night conference game since Dec. 31, 2010. … Minnesota, the Big Ten’s second-best rebounding team, was outrebounded 35-33.
Indiana: Morgan also had nine rebounds. Robert Johnson had 11 points, five rebounds and four assists. … Fifth-year senior Collin Hartman left with 8:22 to go after hurting his right thumb or wrist. He did not return, and Miller said the severity of the injury had not yet been determined. … The Hoosiers shot 56.6 percent from the field…. Indiana has allowed 159 points in its last three games, an average of 53. … Indiana earned its third season sweep in the series in the last decade.
HE SAID IT
“I don’t think any college basketball team can sustain losing three starters and losing their first guy off the bench, I really don’t,” Pitino said. “It’s not an excuse, it’s just reality.”
Minnesota: Will try to end its losing streak Tuesday at home against No. 4 Michigan State.
Indiana: Will attempt to extend its winning streak Wednesday when Illinois comes to Bloomington.