After an 0-4 start to Big Ten play, the Gophers hardly seemed like the team to put an end to Indiana’s storybook start to the 2011-12 season.
Minnesota hadn’t won a conference game in nearly a year. It hadn’t defeated a ranked team on the road in 43 tries. It was playing without All-American forward Trevor Mbakwe. It was playing a team that was equipped to expose its greatest weakness — defending the 3-point shot.
None of those things seemed to matter Thursday, as the Gophers defeated the No. 8 Hoosiers 77-74 in Bloomington, Ind., to win their first conference game since Feb. 13, 2011.
Minnesota seized a 37-34 halftime lead and scored the first six points of the second half. From there, it didn’t trail by less than five points until the final two minutes, when Indiana made a late surge.
The Hoosiers had a chance to tie the game with a 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left, but couldn’t get off a shot.
Austin Hollins led the Gophers with 18 points. Rodney Williams added 14 points. But it was a balanced effort that led the Gophers to a win — all 10 players scored, and seven had at least six points.
Five minutes into the second half, Hollins scored six straight points to give Minnesota a 49-40 lead. Williams scored the Gophers’ next seven points to keep the lead at nine.
After that, seven different Minnesota players combined to score 19 points. That was barely enough to hold off Indiana, which scored 12 points in the last 58 seconds.
Hollins scored the Gophers’ last two points on free throws after the Hoosiers had cut the lead to 75-74 on a 3-point play by Cody Zeller.
Zeller led all scorers with 23 points.
Minnesota played inspired and aggressive basketball all night, blocking eight shots and forcing 16 turnovers at the expense of committing 25 fouls. Hollins, who came off the bench in Sunday’s loss to Purdue, had two blocks, a steal, and a number of deflections in his return to the starting lineup.
Julian Welch started at point guard for the Gophers in place of Maverick Ahanmisi. Welch scored 10 points and grabbed seven rebounds, five on the offensive end. He also missed two free throws with 2.0 seconds left and Minnesota leading 77-74.
Freshman Joe Coleman started his second consecutive game and made four consecutive free throws in the final 40 seconds after missing the front end of a 1-and-1 with 50 seconds left.