Gophers beat Indiana, celebrate with trophy

by Todd Zolecki

The Gophers men’s basketball team wasted no time enjoying its Big Ten championship after a 75-72 victory over Indiana on Saturday afternoon. This house party, unlike the one at Crisler Arena last Wednesday, had 14,625 invited guests looking to whoop it up with the team that hadn’t tasted a slice of title cake in 15 years.
The players had celebrated a few days ago in Ann Arbor, Mich. But this time, in front of the home crowd at Williams Arena, they danced while confetti and streamers fell upon them, the smell of exploded fireworks filled the air and the championship trophy was in the building.
Once again things worked out for No. 2 Minnesota (26-2, 15-1). And for the fifth time in six games it won by three or fewer points. Too close for many, but perfect, players say, once tournament time rolls around.
“We’ve had a lot of close games,” Gophers shooting guard Bobby Jackson said. “Hopefully in the tournament, when we get into a close situation, we can have some players step up and make some crunch time plays in the end.”
This game looked similar to the one Jan. 8 when the Gophers upset Indiana after they overcame a seven-point deficit with 58 seconds in regulation. Jackson tied the game with a 3-pointer, sending the game to overtime, which they won, 96-91.
This time, however, Indiana trailed by seven as the clock wound down toward the minute mark.
“I kind of thought that during the game, but this time the result was different,” Gophers sophomore Courtney James said.
Indiana made no miraculous comeback. Although, it did have chances.
Gophers guard Eric Harris, on the free throw line with 12 seconds left and Minnesota leading 74-72, could put the game away by making both shots.
He made the first but missed his second. Now the Hoosiers needed to make a 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. They pushed the ball up the court and looked for a shot.
They found one. Hoosiers guard A.J. Guyton, who made a similar shot at Michigan to send that game into overtime, took a 3-pointer at the top of the key.
The shot missed, but the ball found its way back into Guyton’s hand, and just before the final buzzer went off, he launched a desperation shot. This one didn’t come close.
Moments later the title T-shirts and hats came out, “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang blared over the speakers and Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany presented the trophy.
Jackson, who finished with 10 points, hasn’t become used to these close games. Those tense moments haven’t grown any easier, but as long as his teammates are with him he’ll bare with it.
“I can say that I’m scared out there when it’s crunch time, but somebody’s got step up out there and make the big play or play great defense,” he said. “I think everybody does that.”
Everybody did. Four players scored in double figures — the ninth time in the Big Ten season Minnesota has done that — and the Gophers’ bench played a key role in the win.
James, who hasn’t been pleased with his play the past few weeks, broke out with a team-high 14 points. He also had 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. He had 10 boards last time against the Hoosiers, a team which the Indianapolis native said he has no problem getting motivated to face.
Off the bench, Gophers guard Charles Thomas scored 13 points on 4-for-5 shooting and forward Quincy Lewis had 12 points. Center Trevor Winter hauled down a career-high 10 rebounds.
Those performances erased any concerns about a Gophers letdown following the team’s 55-54 win against Michigan on Wednesday.
“I would say, if anything, we raised up our emotions a little bit,” Winter said. “We knew that the fans came out, and we knew there was going to be a celebration. And it’s hard to celebrate with a loss.”

No. 22 Indiana 28 44 — 72
No. 2 Gophers 43 32 — 75

Indiana — Mujezinovic 4-9 3-6 11, Mandeville 1-1 0-0 2, Collier 3-9 4-9 10, Lewis 1-1 1-2 3, Guyton 5-14 1-1 14, Richardson 3-3 3-3 9, Jimenez 0-0 0-0 0, Patterson 1-4 0-0 2, Reed 5-9 5-6 19, Miller 0-1 2-5 2, Eggers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 19-32 72.
Gophers — James 5-9 4-7 14, Jacobson 3-12 0-0 6, J.Thomas 2-2 2-2 6, Jackson 4-10 2-4 10, Harris 2-5 3-4 8, Lewis 5-10 0-0 12, Tarver 0-0 0-0 0, Winter 2-3 0-0 4, C.Thomas 4-5 4-4 13, Archambault 0-0 2-2 2. Totals 27-56 17-23 75.
3-Point goals — Indiana 7-13 (Reed 4-6, Guyton 3-7), Minnesota 4-12 (Lewis 2-4, C.Thomas 1-1, Harris 1-2, Jackson 0-1, Jacobson 0-4). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Indiana 34 (Mujezinovic, Collier 7), Minnesota 37 (James, Winter 10). Assists — Indiana 15 (Guyton 5), Minnesota 17 (Winter 3). Technical foul — Minnesota coach Haskins. Total fouls — Indiana 23, Minnesota 23. A — 14,625.