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Indiana Hoosiers 81, Minnesota Golden Gophers 78: a closer look.

I won't pronounce that Sunday's overtime win over Minnesota was any sort of turning point.  Against the Gophers, the Hoosiers showed many of the same flaws that have cost them games over the last two seasons, but unlike most such games in recent years, the IU did manage to win. 

For an overtime game, there were surprisingly few lead changes.  IU scored first and led 7-1 at the first TV timeout.  Minnesota never led in regulation, and the only ties were 0-0 to start and 70-70 at the end of the second half.  The Golden Gophers opened overtime with a three pointer by Devoe Joseph and led by as many as five in overtime before IU whittled it away and took the lead for good on a Verdell Jones III jumper with 32 seconds remaining.  So, counting IU's initial score, there were only three lead changes.  Of course, IU's position was quite volatile.  The Hoosiers led by 14 with 6:39 remaining in the first half, but the Gophers, thanks in part to a wide open three pointer at the buzzer, were within four of halftime.  IU opened the second half with a 19-8 run to expand the lead to 59-44, but within four minutes, the Gophers had narrowed the lead to 7, and IU white knuckled it for the rest of the way.  Devoe Joseph, a sophomore who was shooting only 37 percent for the season, tied the game with 9 seconds remaining in regulation and hit two three pointers early in overtime to expand the Gophers' only lead of the game. Verdell Jones, who nearly attended Minnesota, scored 7 of IU's 11 overtime points and helped IU secure the victory. 

How did the tempo-free and other numbers sort themselves out?  Well, if my calculations are correct, this was roughly a 70 possession game, which was fairly slow-paced considering overtime.  IU's 14 turnovers amounted to a 20 percent TO percentage, but IU committed only 5 turnovers in the second half and none in overtime.  The Gophers shot better than IU and turned the ball over 11 times, but IU made the most of its possessions by pulling down 20 offensive rebounds, nearly half of their missed shots.  This game continued a trend in which IU has shot worse in the second half than in the first half, but it wasn't the complete implosion that the Hoosiers demonstrated in earlier games.  They still managed to shoot 4-11 from behind the arc in the second half.

How about the individuals?

  • Christian Watford played much stronger than before.  Before this game, I had heard some even questioning whether Watford could dunk.  He answered that question yesterday and was very aggressive around the basket.  Watford isn't a true post player, and much is being asked of him as a freshman, but he is starting to emerge.  In addition to 16 points, he had 10 rebounds.
  • Verdell Jones III led the way with 24 points on only 13 field goal attempts thanks to 13-19 from the line.  He scored 7 of IU's 11 overtime points and even 7 rebounds.
  • Jeremiah Rivers shot too much (1-5 from the field) but he had 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and only one turnover. 
  • Jordan Hulls scored 8 points and had 4 assists with only one turnover.  
  • Tom Pritchard and Bobby Capobianco each fouled out in 21 and 15 minutes, respectively, but Capo added 5 points and 4 boards and Pritchard had 7/6.
  • Devan Dumes cooled off, but his early scoring helped IU build a lead.

The Hoosiers again showed their troubling habit of giving up big leads, but for the first time in the Crean era, they held on to beat a quality team, albeit a team that might miss the NCAA Tournament because of this loss.  Tom Crean said that turnovers would be a point of emphasis, and they were.  Last year, IU's only win against a major conference opponent was a win over Iowa, a team that was nearly as bad as IU.  This year, the Hoosiers have wins over Pitt (15-2 and now 5-0 in the Big East), Minnesota (NCAA bubble team), and Michigan (preseason top 15 team that upset UConn yesterday).   It's painful to watch at times, but it's progress.

Fortunately, IU avoids the dreaded Sunday-Tuesday turnaround.  IU next plays at Penn State on Thursday (0-5 in the Big Ten) and then hosts Iowa on Sunday.  The schedule gets brutal after that, but Indiana has a realistic chance to be 4-3 before that stretch begins.  Here are the standings:

Big Ten Conference Standings

(updated 1.18.2010 at 2:20 AM EST)

I certainly expected to be tied with Purdue at this point, but I thought both teams would be 5-0.  Or something.