Gophers snap losing skid, beat Hoosiers

DeAndre Mathieu scored 16 points and added five assists.

Minnesota junior guard DeAndre Mathieu protects the ball against Indiana, Saturday at Williams Arena. Minnesota won, 66-60.

Lisa Persson

Minnesota junior guard DeAndre Mathieu protects the ball against Indiana, Saturday at Williams Arena. Minnesota won, 66-60.

Jace Frederick

DeAndre Mathieu’s younger twin brothers and cousin made the trip from Tennessee to watch him battle vaunted Indiana point guard Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell.

So Mathieu had to show off for them.

“You can’t disappoint your family,” he said after the Gophers’ 66-60 win over the Hoosiers. “I had to go get after it and go at him.”

Mathieu poured in 16 points and tacked on five assists to lead Minnesota (16-8, 5-6 Big Ten) past Indiana (14-9, 4-6) on Saturday night at Williams Arena. He got to the hoop seemingly at will and pestered Ferrell on the defensive end all game.

“He was almost flawless tonight,” head coach Richard Pitino said. “I’m proud of him.”

Given the way Mathieu played all night, it came as no surprise that he stepped up with the game on the line.

The Gophers led by two and had the ball with less than a minute to play when Mathieu held the ball at the top of the key. He took his man off the dribble, got straight to the bucket and finished in the paint to put his team up 64-60 and all but seal the victory.

It was a bit of redemption for the junior guard, who missed late-game shots in close losses to Northwestern and Purdue.

“I feel like I’m one of those players that loves to take the last shot,” Mathieu said. “I have ultimate confidence in myself, and it just feels good to finally get one to go.”

Mathieu had it going on both ends of the floor against Indiana.

He glided to the rim and scored with ease on many possessions on offense. And on defense, he was in Ferrell’s grill all game, forcing the sophomore guard into numerous tough shots.

Ferrell finished with 14 points, but he needed 16 shots to do so.

“I thought we did a great job on Yogi Ferrell,” Pitino said. “He’s one of the best guards in our conference, and he was 5-for-16.

“We trapped him at the end of the clock. We really did a good job executing that.”

Mathieu was only part of the defensive success. The Gophers had a strong defensive effort across the board, especially in the second half.

Minnesota limited Indiana to just 24 points and forced 11 turnovers in the final 20 minutes of play.

“I thought those guys were really locked into defending,” Pitino said.

The Gophers haven’t had wins like this one all season — wins in which the outside shots weren’t falling and the game came down to one or two crucial plays down the stretch.

Minnesota shot just 5-for-16 from deep and instead drove to the bucket on offense. The Gophers scored 40 of their 66 points in the paint. Minnesota junior center Mo Walker led the interior effort with 14 points and eight rebounds.

The Gophers were 2-4 in games decided by six points or less coming into Saturday’s contest, and their three straight losses had come by a combined eight points.

Even so, Pitino said, his team’s belief in its ability to win close games never wavered.

“They’ve got great substance as a team, and I think that they don’t doubt themselves at all,” he said. “Things didn’t go our way [in the previous two games], but I do believe that they thought, ‘Let’s create our own luck. Let’s make our own luck.’”

That’s what happened Saturday night.

The Gophers won the loose-ball battles they’d been losing over the last three games. They erased the brutal mistakes they’d been making down the stretch. And they got crucial defensive stops when they needed it.

It all resulted in the much-needed end to a losing streak.

“We’re a good bounce-back team,” junior guard Andre Hollins said. “We were due for one.”