Gophers Hold Off Hoosiers, 62-54
Feb. 10, 2009
MINNEAPOLIS--Effort and intensity have been two characteristics that have been with the 2008-09 Indiana men's basketball team all season long. Regardless of the previous day, this team has willfully come to work each day in practice or in a game and given the coaching staff most everything it has. And while first year head coach Tom Crean has been quick to praise his team, a moral victory was not something he would even consider following his team's 62-54 loss at Minnesota, Tuesday night.
"I don't know, I guess I'm just tired of being close (to winning)," said Crean. "Maybe it would be easier for me if we were getting blown out. I think we can win and I want the players to think they can win. We weren't nearly as physical as I wanted us to be. Keeping it in perspective, I'm having a hard time with that. I don't want to keep it in perspective. I expect more out of them and we just have to take care of the ball better and have to block out better."
Two numbers on the stat sheet jumped out at coach after the game, 26 turnovers and 18 offensive rebounds by the Gophers.
"We've practiced seven on five, we expected them to turn it up (press), added Crean. But we've still got to be able to take care of the basketball. They have a lot of talent, they have a lot of depth and we don't have a lot of depth out there; they knew that but there's really no excuse for us not handling the ball better."
Now to the positive.
Indiana's defense forced 19 Gopher turnovers and limited the hosts to 40.0% shooting from the field and 23.1% accuracy from long distance.
In addition, the Hoosiers held Minnesota to just 22 points from its starting lineup, after allowing the same group to score 48 points on January 25 in Assembly Hall. UM's leading scorer Lawrence Westbrook was limited to four points, all on free throws.
For the Hoosiers, freshmen accounted for all the scoring for the first time in school history and were led by guard Verdell Jones III who had his Big Ten high of 18 points and matched his season-best of seven assists. Forward Nick Williams had 15 points and six rebounds, guard Matt Roth had all 11 of his points in the second half and swingman Malik Story paced the Hoosiers with nine first half points.
The Hoosiers trailed 27-20 at the half, but a 14-6 run to start the half, capped by three straight three-pointers by Roth gave Indiana a 34-33 lead with 12:50 to go, and if you look at the glass half full, it marked the first time in eight true road games (five against teams that have been nationally ranked this season) that this Hoosier squad has led in the second half on the road.
"We had 'em," said Williams. "We just needed to put them away, and we didn't."
Minnesota's Paul Carter made a layup and the Gophers never trailed after that. He led Minnesota with a career-high 22 points. After trailing by as many as 14 points, the Hoosiers were able to cut the lead to single digits, but got no closer than 58-51 with 25 seconds left.
The Hoosiers will now return to Assembly Hall for a two-game homestand which starts Sunday for a nationally televised game (CBS) against Illinois at 1 p.m. Fans are asked to create a Stripeout effect by wearing either crimson or white depending on what section they are in.
"I know our fans have been behind us all year and a packed Assembly Hall on Sunday is what we need right now," said Crean.
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