Minnesota suffered their second straight conference defeat, losing to Indiana at Assembly Hall 73-60. With the loss, the Gophers drop to 10-3 on the season and 1-3 in Big Ten play. Payton Willis led all Minnesota scorers with 18 points.
Credit Minnesota’s compete in this game, but expect to see many more games like this one during this season, especially if the Gophers continue to be cold from distance. Indiana won today’s game because of a talent and physicality edge that Minnesota was unable to overcome with game planning.
In the first half, the Gophers made the calculated decision to force the Hoosiers to beat them from the outside. Luke Loewe or E.J. Stephens regularly dug down into the post to force Trayce Jackson-Davis and Race Thompson to pass the ball out of the post. Unfortunately, the strategy was less successful over the course of the half. Led by Rob Phinisee, who had four makes, Indiana was 7-15 from distance in the first half. 11 of their fifteen shots were assisted.
Conversely, the Gophers were cold from distance (2/13), and scored just ten points in the last eight minutes of the half. Jamison Battle alone was 2-7, and Luke Loewe was left open from distance for a reason. Minnesota also continued to score mostly via isolation sets, managing just four assists in the first half. The cold shooting and strong Indiana defensive pressure, allowed the Hoosiers to end the half on a 17-4 run to take a double digit lead into the locker room.
In the second half, the Gophers responded with their own 17-4 scoring run by letting Payton Willis and Jamison Battle just do their thing to cut the lead to 1 point at the under 12 mark. Observe this play by play.
Several of Willis’s drives came off high pick and pop with Battle as the screener.
Unfortunately for the visitors, Indiana had another two runs left in them.
Our fearless leader noted before the game that a major key for Minnesota to pull off the upset was to make threes. Indiana is rock solid on the interior, and even if that were not the case Minnesota does not have the post talent to regularly challenge Big Ten opponents inside. Because the Gophers were unable to hit threes, Indiana could also afford to take more risks on defense to jam up passing lanes. As far as I can tell through 14 games, CBJ’s offense works best when defenses have to come up and defend to 23 feet. In the second half, the Gophers pulled out a few different motion sets that looked straight out of Purdue’s playbook in an effort to get Indiana moving horizontally, with some success.
Dating back to last season, Jamison Battle has scored in double digits for 28 straight games.
I don’t love the penchant for Minnesota to pull up and take quick threes in the secondary break. It is possible that against a team like Indiana that three is the best shot possible for the possession, but I’m skeptical that is true in general.
The schedule does not get any easier as Minnesota next travels to East Lansing to play the Spartans on Wednesday.