Gophers snap skid with win over gritty Indiana team

Gophers snap skid with win over gritty Indiana team

Steve Maturen

Indiana came into Tuesday night’s game with the worst offense and the worst defense in the Big Ten. They were 1-9 and in last place. On top of all that, they played without guard Devan Dumes, who was their leading scorer in conference play. It should’ve been an easy win, especially at home, but it wasn’t. The Gophers needed a big second half run to separate from the Hoosiers, winning 62-54. Sophomore Paul Carter became the latest Minnesota bench player to carry the team, scoring a career-high 22 points, and was the only Gophers player in double digits. “That’s what we have to do,” Carter said. “We always look to [Lawrence] Westbrook and Al [Nolen] to score, but some nights it doesn’t go their way.” Without Dumes, Indiana’s offense struggled mightily, scoring just 20 points in the first half. Indiana suspended the junior after he threw a flagrant elbow in a loss to Michigan State on Saturday. The Hoosiers finished with 26 turnovers, the most of any Gophers opponent this season. The Gophers finished with a season-high 14 steals “We like to pressure all the time,” freshman Devoe Joseph, who had nine points and four rebounds, said. “If we can get the ball and get in the break, that’s where we’re best.” Clearly, the Hoosiers didn’t play over their heads; the Gophers just played a sloppy game. Coach Tubby Smith harped all week about controlling the ball better, but they committed 19 turnovers, which tied for a season-high. Most of the problems came in the half-court offense, where Smith said he was disappointed with the play of his guards. Sophomore Al Nolen continued to struggle on offense, scoring just four points in a team-high 29 minutes. “Our backcourt just struggled,” Smith said. “If it weren’t for Devoe making some shots in the backcourt tonight, I don’t know what we would’ve done. He really stepped up.” With 12:46 left in the second half, Minnesota’s sloppy play finally caught up to them, when Nick Williams gave Indiana its first lead of the game on two long three-pointers. The 35-34 lead, however, turned out to be Indiana’s only of the game, and it ended up lasting for just 38 seconds. Carter answered with a driving layup, and Al Nolen stole a pass and finished with a dunk on the next possession. That kicked off a 17-2 Minnesota run, which included 11 points from Carter. “We were down one, yeah, but we don’t tend to worry too much about the clock too much,” Carter said. “We saw that when we picked up our intensity, we can play way better.” Indiana cut the lead to eight with just over four minutes left, but Carter’s 11 points from that point helped the Gophers to keep the lead. “He was inspirational in his efforts tonight,” Smith said. “Taking charges, diving on the floor for loose balls. That’s the kind of play we need to have from all our guys.” The team’s two leadings scorers, Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson, were quiet. Westbrook scored just four points for the second game in a row, and Johnson didn’t have any. Sophomore Blake Hoffarber, who had a breakout game against Ohio State on Saturday with 19 points, finished with just two.