MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Eric Gordon and the Indiana Hoosiers seemingly did everything they could to give the game to Minnesota.
Playing in front of their first sellout crowd in nearly three years, the Gophers just couldn’t take it away.
D.J. White had 17 points and 10 rebounds and Lance Stemler hit a crucial 3-pointer to help the ninth-ranked Hoosiers overcome an off night from Gordon and a season-high 26 turnovers in their 65-60 victory over Minnesota on Thursday night.
“Weird game,” Indiana coach Kelvin Sampson said. “To have 26 turnovers and find a way to win on the road, I don’t know that I’ve ever been around anything quite like that.”
On a night when their super freshman struggled in all areas, Gordon’s supporting cast came up huge to extend Indiana’s winning streak to 11 games, its longest since 13 in a row in 1992-93.
Gordon had just 12 points on 3-for-8 shooting, committed seven turnovers and was hindered by foul trouble most of the game.
“I kept telling (Gordon) and Jordan (Crawford) during timeouts that we’re wearing red,” Sampson cracked.
But Crawford scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half and Gordon hit two big free throws down the stretch to seal it for Indiana (15-1, 4-0 Big Ten), which matched its best start since 1996-97.
Dan Coleman had 15 points and seven rebounds for the feisty Gophers (12-4, 2-2), but they scored just 16 points off all those Hoosiers turnovers and missed 10 free throws.
“I’m crushed right now, heartbroken, everything,” said Minnesota center Spencer Tollackson, who scored 12 points but went 0-for-7 from the line. “I really thought we were going to win.”
The Gophers went on a 9-0 run, holding error-prone Indiana scoreless for nearly 8 minutes, to take a 56-52 lead with 6:50 to go and led 60-58 on a reverse layup by Tollackson with 1:49 left.
But Stemler came back with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and the Hoosiers closed it out at the free throw line to keep new Gophers coach Tubby Smith stuck on 399 career victories.
“D.J. is the best leader we can have and Lance stepped up in the second half,” Crawford said. “So with them, as long as we’re together, it’s not going to bother us.”
Despite getting off to the best start since 2004-05, the Gophers still have a lot to prove. They have yet to beat a quality opponent, though they did play Michigan State tough in a six-point loss in East Lansing on Jan. 5.
“I think it’s time for us to stop being happy with being in these types of games and coming down to the wire,” Gophers senior Lawrence McKenzie said. “We’ve got to go get one. I don’t believe in moral victories. They don’t show up in the win column.”
They were right in this one to the end too, thanks to sloppy play by the Hoosiers and a big help from raucous Williams Arena.
Spurred on by a jam-packed student section that featured five gorillas, a giant cell phone (in reference to a pending NCAA investigation hanging over Sampson), Clifford the Big Red Dog, a cow and a chicken, “The Barn” was as loud as its been in quite some time.
The place went crazy when McKenzie split a double team and knocked down a leaner in the lane to give the Gophers an 8-3 lead early, and it’s hard to imagine the Hoosiers getting off to a poorer start.
Indiana turned the ball over 11 times in the first 13 minutes and Gordon played just nine minutes in the first half because of foul trouble.
The star freshman picked up two fouls in the first 2 1/2 minutes, didn’t even take a shot until 11:30 into the game and went to the bench with his third foul with 5:26 to go in the half.
Yet the Hoosiers hung right in there, thanks in large part to Crawford’s sharp shooting. After air-balling his first shot of the game, Crawford hit his next four 3-pointers, including three during a 17-0 run that gave Indiana a 38-27 lead with 2:20 to play.
“It was the most hostile place we’ve played at this year,” White said. “And things happen like that … but we found a way. That’s the main thing at the end of the day. We’re 4-0 in the Big Ten and tied for first place.”
After taking advantage of Penn State’s horrendous foul shooting, and making five in a row of their own, to squeak out a win in Happy Valley last weekend, the Gophers returned the favor against Indiana.
“We’re still growing in those areas and learning how to win these types of games when the pressure is on,” Smith said.