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Minnesota cannot overcome early deficit in a loss to Indiana

Indiana v Minnesota Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

Minnesota lost to Indiana 84-79 on Senior Night at Williams Arena. The Gophers are now 13-14 on the season and 4-14 in Big Ten play. Payton Willis led all scorers in his last game at the Barn.

There were three themes throughout this game. First, Minnesota’s inability to shoot for much of the first 30 minutes meant that this game looked to a be a runaway victory for Indiana. The Gophers were down 40-33 at halftime after a Payton Willis buzzer beater, but realistically should have been down at least 14 points. Indiana extended that lead to 25 points through thirty minutes of the game. For reference to the general quality of play on the court, Minnesota was outscored 23-4 before making its second shot from the field in the second half. I mentioned to the blog commentariat at the time, “short of an epic comeback which would require them to start shooting at like 60% there’s no way this game doesn’t end with a 4 possession loss.”

Here comes theme number 2:

Indiana Minnesota scoring over last 10 minutes
The Comeback

Over the final eight minutes of the game, the Gophers outscored Indiana 36-14. They made six shots in a row in a 16-2 run. Payton Willis hit not one, but two shots that Steph Curry would think “maybe not” about taking. Was some of this complacency by Indiana? Yeah definitely. Should Mike Woodson have taken a timeout and regrouped? Most definitely. I have no idea why he thought “oh have them play through this for toughness” was a good idea at all. Was this comeback a main theme of much of Minnesota’s play this year? Yes. #BeAnnoying.

The third theme of course was that the comeback came up short. C’est la vie.

Notes

It’s not often historically that a team honors eight seniors in a season. This year, Eric Curry, Charlie Daniels, Luke Loewe, Joey Kern, Danny Ogele, E.J. Stephens, Sean Sutherlin, and Payton Willis all walked, assuring that next season’s team will be a bunch of new faces.

A word about this team before it finishes its final two games on the road. The Gophers arguably should have two more wins this season. They have been competitive in the vast majority of their Big Ten games. Maryland and Northwestern are both teams for which the Gophers can realistically beat, even if the games are on the road. This team is a Big Ten team. They compete against Big Ten teams. Minnesota will be very different next year (hopefully much better), but it is a disservice to the current team to suggest that what we witnessed was a team that did not deserve to be in the Big Ten.

Perhaps most importantly for me as a fan is that this team is surprisingly fun to watch. There has only been one game this season for which I thought it was reasonable to turn off the television. The compete of the team, which comes from the players on the floor and is nurtured by the coaching staff, is higher than it has any right to be. Bad teams should not be painful to watch, and Minnesota definitely is not painful to watch.

Ben Johnson’s success as a coach will mostly be determined by how he addresses the current talent and physical disparity between the Gophers and the NCAA bound conference foes. Nonetheless, I had the Gophers with at most four wins in conference play and a lot more than zero losses in the non-conference. That is something to celebrate, even as we rightly hope for better results in the very near future.