Gophers overcome first-half deficit to win without Devoe Joseph

Minnesota beat Indiana to win its first Big Ten game, but much of the attention after the game remained on Joseph leaving the team.

Josh Katzenstein

The distraction was clearly on the Gophers menâÄôs basketball teamâÄôs mind.
The Gophers were playing just hours after reports surfaced that Devoe Joseph, their sixth man, would be leaving the team.
That couldâÄôve been why Minnesota trailed 32-26 at halftime against Indiana âÄî one of the worst teams in the conference that entered on a four-game losing streak âÄî at Williams Arena on Tuesday night. And the distraction couldâÄôve led to a 30.8 field goal percentage and seven turnovers that resulted in a head-scratching deficit at the break that the Gophers eventually overtook.
The Hoosiers grabbed a nine-point lead after a 15-0 run late in the first half, and even after Blake HoffarberâÄôs 3-pointer cut the lead to six at the end of the half, the Gophers needed to make some adjustments.
Minnesota shot 51.9 percent in the second half and used two separate 10-0 runs to beat Indiana 67-63 in a game the Gophers (12-3, 1-2 Big Ten) desperately needed to win. Yet, it took them a half of basketball to recognize how important the game really was.
âÄúI think everybody realized that âÄòWe need to play because we need to win,âÄôâÄù said Rodney Williams, who scored eight consecutive points on the first big run. âÄúStarting 0-3 in the Big Ten, itâÄôs going to be tough to get out of that hole, so I think everybody just knew coming out in the second half we were going to have to fight to get a W.âÄù
Junior forward Trevor Mbakwe scored 11 points, grabbed 16 rebounds and blocked five shots while Williams fought to the tune of 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting, including a vicious baseline dunk in traffic that gave the Gophers a 59-51 lead âÄî their biggest of the game âÄî with 5:15 remaining. Hoffarber finished with 16 points, and senior guard Al Nolen had one of his best games of the season with 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and four steals to help ease the pain of JosephâÄôs absence.
Smith confirmed that Joseph would be leaving the Gophers, but wouldnâÄôt comment further on the situation. Nolen was a bit more outspoken.
âÄúDevoeâÄôs definitely going to be missed,âÄù he said. âÄúI miss him already just not being around. I think itâÄôs just going to take a team effort to replace Devoe.
âÄúI definitely know it was a different feeling going into the locker room and not seeing him there.âÄù
Without Joseph, freshman Maverick Ahanmisi defaults as the backup point guard. He scored six points and grabbed three offensive rebounds in 16 minutes.
Nolen also admitted that the team isnâÄôt quite comfortable in the half-court offense, which became apparent about four minutes into the game. Mbakwe scored seven of the GophersâÄô first nine points, but once the Hoosiers locked in on the junior defensively, they could find little offensive production.  
âÄúWeâÄôre more of a running team,âÄù Nolen said. âÄúWeâÄôre going to have to start becoming more comfortable [in the half court], and I think tonight we used transition to our advantage.âÄù
The Gophers ran more in the second half, but it was NolenâÄôs ability to get to the rim and their post play that helped them avoid disappointment. Minnesota won the rebounding battle 44-35, and Mbakwe played spectacular defense to hold Christian Watford, the HoosiersâÄô top scorer, to four points on 2-of-13 shooting.
âÄúIt was a real tough win for us,âÄù Smith said. âÄúOne we need with a lot of the distractions we had especially of late.
âÄúWe did some good things and we did some poor thingsâĦ but overall we did what we needed to do to get the win down the stretch.âÄù