New look gives Minnesota new tally: A conference win

Zach Puchtel and Jamal Abu-Shamala started for the first time this season.

C.J. Spang

Maybe it was the white uniforms. Maybe it was the new starting lineup.

Whatever it was, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team looked entirely different than it has all year in its 61-42 win over No. 13 Indiana on Sunday at Williams Arena to break into the Big Ten win column.

“I thought that coach (Dan) Monson probably did the best thing that any coach could do,” Indiana coach Mike Davis said. “And that was play some guys that wanted to come out and play with effort and intensity.”

The surprises in the Gophers’ starting lineup was junior forward Zach Puchtel and freshman guard Jamal Abu-Shamala.

“You can’t just keep marching out the same way every game when you’re 0-6,” Monson said. “And think that as a coach, you’re giving them every opportunity.”

Those fresh faces in the Minnesota lineup lit a fire under the rest of the team.

The Gophers (10-8, 1-6 Big Ten) hit four of their first five while Indiana made three of its first five, as the Gophers took a 9-7 lead with 15:57 remaining in the half.

But Indiana (12-5, 4-3 Big Ten) went cold from the field after that, while Minnesota caught fire.

The Gophers outscored the Hoosiers 25-9 in those final 16 minutes on 12-21 shooting, while Indiana went 4-17 from the floor.

Heading into the locker room, Minnesota had a commanding 34-16 lead, after shooting 61.5 percent from the field.

Neither team could get it going offensively to start the second half.

The Gophers missed their first five shots from the floor, and Indiana made just one of its first six field goals.

But Minnesota regained its first-half touch, hitting five of its next six shots to grab a 43-23 lead with 12:55 left to play.

Things started to get heated between the two teams from that point.

Puchtel ” in his first start ” was responsible for guarding Indiana’s star senior forward Marco Killingsworth.

Killingsworth was limited to just 10 minutes of play in the first half because of foul trouble, mustering just two points.

In the second half, Puchtel and Killingsworth started getting into it, battling for position and pushing each other around, with Killingsworth showing obvious signs of frustration.

“That’s part of my game,” Puchtel said. “I play physical; I play hard; and you know, I mentally frustrate people ” try to get in their heads a little bit.”

All that hostility between the two teams culminated with 3:44 left in the game.

Hoosiers forward Sean Kline slammed Minnesota senior forward J’son Stamper to the ground going for a rebound.

Kline was hit with an intentional foul and the two teams seemed to cool off after that. The Gophers cruised to a win; Indiana was never able to get the lead under 18 points.

Senior guard Vincent Grier recorded his third double-double of the season, scoring a game-high 17 points and pulling down 10 rebounds.

“I knew they were going to have a hard load with Marco down there,” Grier said. “All we asked for was for the big guys to get him out and the guards to clean it up.”

Stamper scored in double digits for the third consecutive game, knocking down five of six shots for 12 points. Senior guard Adam Boone had a game-high nine assists ” one more than the entire Indiana team.

“This is a tough stretch and it’s really easy to let it snowball on you and feel sorry for yourself and not have confidence,” Monson said. “As I told them, you can’t expect anybody to dig you out of this except yourself.”