Prior to Tuesday night’s game against Indiana, Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins made a prediction: “We’ve always had some battles in my 13 years here, and Tuesday will be no different.”
Moments after the Gophers adrenaline-pumping 90-83 overtime victory, Haskins might have been contacted by representatives of the Psychic Friends Network. This was a game that Minnesota can put in its archives, one that put exclamation points on the offensive prowess of forward Quincy Lewis and the reckless, all-out play of Miles Tarver.
“We’ve had a lot of great games at Williams Arena,” Haskins said. “Without a doubt, this is one of the top five games of all-time.”
Clearly, Haskins himself was blown over by the intense play of both teams in a game that wasn’t decided in two halves of regulation. But in the end, this became a highlight reel of Lewis’s sniper-like accuracy from all over the court, as well as the crowd’s unwavering fervor through 45 minutes of action.
“The crowd was really the difference,” said Lewis, who matched a career-high with 36 points on 13-of-26 shooting. “It was just loud and intense. They just give us a huge advantage.”
Lewis’ fluidity and grace on the offensive end was matched by Tarver’s relentless effort in the post. The 6-foot-8 senior grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds and controlled the paint.
“What else can you say about Miles Tarver? We wouldn’t be 13-4 without him,” Haskins said. “We need all of his energy.”
Tarver’s emergence in the post came at a time when the Hoosiers finally found a legitimate low-post presence in freshman center Kirk Haston. The 6-foot-10 Haston upstaged his counterpart, Gophers freshman center Joel Przybilla, by notching a career-high 24 points and 13 rebounds.
“Haston was very active tonight,” said Indiana coach Bob Knight. “He was aggressive in looking to shoot. We’re going to play him every minute we can from now on.”
Indeed, Haston — making his first start in a very unconventional starting five for Knight — looked like a man possessed early on, drilling shots from 10 and 15 feet away. The starting unit, with the exception of guard A.J. Guyton, consisted of bench players and those who had seen very limited action in previous games for the Hoosiers.
But Guyton, who looked like water flowing through the seams of the Gophers defense, and Haston carried Indiana to an early 22-13 lead. It was Guyton’s three-point shooting that also nullified any attempts at a first-half rally by the Gophers.
“We couldn’t find a way to stop those two guys,” Haskins said. “But I’m proud of my guys because they stayed in there and matched the intensity of Indiana.”
Lewis’s 26-point, second-half explosion was only one reason why the Gophers played stride-for-stride with Indiana. The emergence of reserve guard Mitch Ohnstad — who nailed 12 of his 14 points on three-pointers — gave the Gophers a viable backcourt complement to guard Kevin Clark, who finished with 17.
“My shots are falling now,” Ohnstad said. “I’m getting a lot more comfortable now, but I knew it would take some time for that to happen.”
The Gophers also found a way to shut down Guyton and Haston in the overtime, outscoring the Hoosiers 12-5 in the extra period. When asked about Minnesota’s ability to contain Haston in the waning minutes of regulation and in overtime, Knight became surly and stand-offish, a display of indignance the Hoosier coach has trademarked.
“I’m not sure they played with six guys,” he cynically quipped. “I thought they used five guys all the way.”
With those words, Knight quietly rushed out of the press conference.
Yes, this was Big Ten basketball at its best.
Turner 1-4 0-0 2, Richardson 1-2 1-2 3, Haston 10-14 4-4 24, Fife 0-0 0-0 0, Guyton 11-23 0-0 27, Recker 3-11 0-2 7, Randle El 0-0 0-0 0, Jimenez 0-0 0-0 0, Lewis 3-4 5-5 11, Gladness 4-5 1-2 9, Washington 0-0 0-1 0
TOTALS: 33-63 (.524) FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE: 11-16 (.688) THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS: 6-15 (.400) REBOUNDS: 36 (Haston 13) ASSISTS: 20 (Guyton 8) BLOCKS: 4 (Haston 2)
Lewis 13-26 8-8 36, Tarver 1-7 2-2 4, Przybilla 4-8 0-0 8, Clark 6-14 3-3 17, Nathaniel 1-2 3-4 5, Sinville 0-0 0-0 0, Ohnstad 5-11 0-0 14, Simmons 0-1 0-0 0, Stanford 0-0 0-0 0, Broxsie 0-0 0-0 0, Sanden 3-4 0-0 6
TOTALS: 33-73 (.452) FREE-THROW PERCENTAGE: 16-17 (.941) THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS: 8-16 (.500) REBOUNDS: 39 (Tarver 17) ASSISTS: 22 (Tarver, Clark 4) BLOCKS: 7 (Przybilla 5)