First of all, the Indiana Hoosiers deserve a ton of credit. They were playing for little more than pride for the vast majority of the 45 minutes in Sunday's game in Bloomington, yet Tom Crean's team out-worked and out-hustled a more talented Minnesota team that has NCAA tournament aspirations.
While the game went to overtime, it never really felt like the Gophers were playing a competitive game. Short of a few cold spells for the Hoosiers, Minnesota was outplayed in most every aspect of the game. Indiana out-rebounded the Gophers 43-31, and make no mistake, that advantage was in large part because Indiana wanted it more. The Hoosiers had 20 offensive rebounds.
The defensive pressure that Minnesota typically wins because of simply wasn't there. During a first half in which it looked like the Hoosiers might put the game away, Minnesota's hyped ball-pressure defense looked lost. The rotation on defense wasn't there and too many of our guards allowed the Hoosiers to easily penetrate into the lane. The result was easy baskets for Indiana and far fewer turnovers created then usual. And as we've all seen with this team for the past two years, when they aren't creating turnovers they simply are a middle-of-the-pack basketball team.
There was at least one bright spot for the Gophers. Sophomore guard Devoe Joseph put the team on his shoulders late in the second half and was called on during consecutive possessions to create his own shot. He buried both of his attempts to help force overtime. And once the extra session started, Joseph continued his hot-shooting ways by hitting consecutive threes. All of a sudden the Gophers were up by five and it was looking like they might escape. But as soon as that happened, Paul Carter and Ralph Sampson III fouled out in close succession and Indiana took control again.
Carter seemed to be the only Minnesota player who demonstrated any fight on the glass. He pulled down 10 of Minnesota's 31 rebounds. Ralph Sampson III, who showed some signs of life as a low-post scorer, was out-muscled continually on the glass. Damian Johnson, in foul-trouble most of the game, was never really a factor when he was on the floor.
Sampson finished with 17 points. Joseph led the team with 19.
Joining Johnson as non-factors were two of Minnesota's other upper-classmen. Lawrence Westbrook was clearly frustrated and occasionally out of control. It was no surprise that Tubby Smith turned to Joseph down the stretch instead of Westbrook. Blake Hoffarber finished with 5 points in 36 minutes.
For the Hoosiers, Verdell Jones III, a nice sophomore point guard who considered wearing maroon and gold, played a composed game at the point and hit some clutch shots. He finished with a game-high 24 points.
All in all it was a frustrating trip to Indiana and the result will be a blemish that might be hard to overcome come Selection Sunday. The Gophers certainly didn't look like an NCAA tournament team against the Hoosiers, and that's hard to swallow just a few short days after they gave the Michigan State Spartans a good game in East Lansing.
1) Late in the second half and overtime Tubby Smith had this lineup on the floor: Al Nolen, Joseph, Hoffarber, Carter and Sampson. Westbrook and Johnson weren't part of that equation and for good reasons. Both weren't productive on the floor. Carter needs to continue to get more playing time. He's superior athletically then Johnson and can actually finish in the post.
2) Minnesota's ball-pressure defense was so bad that they spent most of the second half in zone defenses. This actually helped the Gophers get back into the game as it stopped Indiana's dribble penetration. But I just don't understand how the team's defense can be so effective against a talented Michigan State team and drop off so suddenly against a rebuilding Indiana team.
3) For the second straight game, Hoffarber was a total non-factor. Yet he racked up 36 minutes on the floor. When he's not able to get open, I don't see why he's playing those types of minutes. I'd rather have Joseph on the floor because he can get his own shots or even Rodney Williams, whose length on defense would be an asset.
4) For the second straight game, Colton Iverson was called for throwing an elbow after a defensive rebound. The call against MSU was legitimate and the call against Indiana was questionable, but Iverson put himself in position to be called. Someone has to work with him on clearing out effectively after grabbing defensive rebounds.
5) While RSIII found a way to be effective offensively, he still has the horrible tendency of bringing the ball down to his ankles when he has it in the post. He has to be much stronger with the ball.
Any other thoughts on the game? Can they rebound and win what is probably a must-win next weekend against the Spartans?