Hot-shooting Hoosiers out duel men’s hoops 74-70

Anthony Maggio

NBLOOMINGTON, Ind. – no matter what matchup problems Minnesota’s men’s basketball team can cause any opponent on any night, the Gophers have continually lived and died by the three-pointer this season.

So it was only fitting that on Tuesday night, with its NCAA tournament hopes hanging in the balance, Minnesota (16-10, 8-7 Big Ten) would be out-gunned by conference clone Indiana 74-70.

The Hoosiers (18-10, 8-7) tied a season high by hitting 13 three-pointers while shooting a scorching 56.5 percent from behind the arc.

The Gophers managed only 8-of-27 from the three-point line, including 2-of-7 in the second half.

“Eventually shots are going to fall,” Indiana senior Kyle Hornsby said. “I’ve been saying since day one we have pretty good shooters and if they leave us open we are going to hit them.”

The Gophers and Hoosiers entered Tuesday’s contest in similar situations. Both teams have failed to meet expectations this season, both are on the NCAA tournament bubble and both have suffered from inconsistent play all season. Fittingly, both teams played solid games overall.

But Minnesota, just like in Sunday’s game against the Badgers, couldn’t get over the hump. The Gophers are now on a three-game losing streak, and are tied for seventh with Indiana.

Minnesota coach Dan Monson said earlier in the season that his squad must finish ahead of the Hoosiers and Michigan State to have a better shot at the tournament. Minnesota is now behind both teams, and needs a victory at Illinois to finish with a 9-7 conference record – the same record that failed to put the Gophers in the Big Dance last season.

“It’s very tough,” said Jerry Holman, who led the Gophers with 17 points. “We came out here focused and ready. I felt we executed very well, but we just didn’t come out on top.”

Minnesota’s last lead Tuesday came with 13 minutes remaining in the game. But it was never more than a two-possession game the rest of the way.

On the strength of the Gophers’ 32-16 points in the paint edge, they matched the Hoosiers three-point frenzy. But Minnesota couldn’t execute in the final minute, closing the door on its chance to steal only its third road win this season.

With 29 seconds left, Kevin Burleson missed the mark on a wide-open three with the Gophers down three. After getting the ball back and calling a timeout, Rick Rickert, who was saddled with four fouls early in the second half, shot another three over two defenders that didn’t drop. With the 17,085 in Assembly Hall roaring their approval, the Hoosiers were then able to seal the game from the charity stripe.

“We wanted to take a quick look at a three but we just wanted to score on that possession,” Monson said. “We had enough time to go get a two, but we just settled there. Again I thought we played hard but I didn’t think we played smart enough throughout the game.”

Jeff Newton and Bracey Wright were most responsible for Indiana’s victory. Newton was a force in the paint, corralling a game-high 16 rebounds and scoring a game-high 22 points, including 8-of-8 from the free-throw line.

Wright showed why he should win Big Ten freshman of the year, scoring 21 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the three-point line.

Minnesota is now on its longest losing streak of the conference season, and will likely need a deep Big Ten tournament run to make the NCAA tournament.