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Indiana 65, Minnesota 60.

This win feels like found money. I began mentally preparing myself to rationalize the loss several times during the game, most notably when the Gophers were up by four with 6:50 remaining and when they pulled ahead 60-58 with 1:49 to go. As we know, the Hoosiers scored the final seven points and held on to beat Minnesota in an arena where even the best Hoosier teams have struggled.
Here's the box score, which ought to be rated NC-17. Obviously, IU's turnovers were the big story. This was a 68 possession game, and IU turned the ball over 26 times, or 38.2 percent of the time. As I noted in my preview, the Gophers force turnovers better than nearly every team in the country, but IU's output was significantly higher than the 27 percent usually forced by the Gophers. Of the 341 teams tracked by Pomeroy, only two teams, Savannah State and Prairie View A&M, turn the ball over on even 30 percent of their possessions. In other words, while it's great that the Hoosiers won, this turnover problem simply has to get better if IU is going to beat any elite teams this season. Minnesota turned the ball over only 11 times, or 16 percent of the time. That means that Minnesota had 57 possessions on which it had the opportunity to score, and IU had 42. So how the hell did we win?
  • Efficiency. IU scored 1.38 points per shot. Minnesota only 1.03.
  • Three point shooting. IU was 9-22, Minnesota was 3-17.
  • Free throws. IU was 12-14, Minnesota was 11-21, including 0-7 by Spencer Tollackson.
  • Rebounding. IU corralled 40 percent of its OR opportunities, 11 of 27 misses. Minnesota grabbed only 10 of its 41 misses, 24 percent. This is why IU, despite 15 fewer non-turnover possessions, managed to close the gap a bit.

In sum, IU was significantly better than Minnesota in every meaningful category other than turnovers, enough to eek out a win despite dramatically fewer scoring opportunities than the Gophers. One interesting stat: IU was credited with assists on 18 of 22 made baskets, an absurdly high total for a team that ranks sub 200 in the category at about 55 percent. IU's 18/22 is about 81 percent. The nation's leader, Utah State, averages 72.3 percent. Perhaps the scorer at Minnesota is the long-lost twin of his counterpart at Texas A&M.

How about the individuals?

  • Eric Gordon had his least productive game as a Hoosier. He was called for three fouls in the first half and played only nine minutes. Still, while his output of 12 points wasn't great, and his turnovers (7 in this game) remain a problem. He wasn't all that bad. He was 3-8 from the field, 2-6 from behind the arc, and 4-5 from the line. Gordon, thus far, has avoided what really consititutes a bad night for a guard, a 6-20, 14 point performance. Gordon does a good enough job of getting to the line (and shoots 85 percent there) that he seems nearly incapable of having a game in which he is a black hole.
  • Jordan Crawford saved the day. I have noted before that Jordan really likes to shoot, and with Gordon on the bench for the last eight minutes of the first half, Crawford hit 4-5 three pointers (4-6 on the game). Overall, he scored 16 points on 12 shots.
  • Jamarcus Ellis scored onlt 2 points and was 0-5 from the field, but he contributed elsewhere, with nine rebounds, 6 assists, and "only" two turnovers in 36 minutes (better than any other Hoosier ballhandler).
  • DJ White was DJ White. 7-12, 10 rebounds, 17 points, 2 blocks. But you already knew that, even if you didn't watch the game. We have the two best players in the Big Ten, so we better win it this year.
  • Deandre Thomas may have had the best line of the night. In 12 minutes, Thomas scored five points on two shots, two rebounds, no turnovers, one steal.
  • Lance Stemler was perfect from the field: 8 points on 2-2 from three point range and from the line. His three pointer gave the Hoosiers their final lead of the game. Lance seems to have it back, finally.

Minnesota may not even be an NCAA Tournament team, but this feels like IU's best road win in some time. The Barn is tough on the Hoosiers, and the Gophers are well-coached and did a great job of exploiting IU's weaknesses, yet not effectively enough to win. Last year, the Hoosiers were 2-6 on the road in conference. This year, they are 3-0 already with trips to Evanston and State College remaining. Also, as I noted last night, the game at Wisconsin on January 31 is shaping up as a major showdown. Solid win, Hoosiers, but let's take better care of the ball in Madison and East Lansing.