Retaining that No. One national ranking has been elusive all though this wild season in college basketball, and Indiana Hoosiers was the latest to lose at the top – again.
Most important and maybe more challenging for the Hoosiers, however, is holding on to first place in the tough-as-ever Big 10.
Trevor Mbakwe had 21 points on 8-for-10 shooting and 12 rebounds to help Minnesota Golden Gophers take down top-ranked Indiana 77-73, the 7th time the No. One team in the Associated Press poll has lost this season. Three of those losses were by the Hoosiers, who were No. 1 when they slipped to Butler Bulldogs and Wisconsin Badgers earlier this season. All 3 opponents were unranked at the time.
Indiana (24-4, 12-3) has held the No. 1 ranking for 10 of the 17 polls by the AP this season, including the last 4, and that will likely change next week. But fending off Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin is what’s on the minds of the Indiana Hoosiers, who’ll take a one-game lead in the conference race into Saturday’s game against Iowa Hawkeyes.
Andre Hollins added 16 points for the Gophers (19-9, 7-8), who outrebounded Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers by a whopping 44-30 and solidified their slipping NCAA tournament hopes with a powerful performance against the meeting leader. The fired-up fans swarmed the court as the last seconds ticked off, the 1st time that’s happened here since a 2002 win over Indiana.
”There were just too many times when that first shot went up and they were there before we were because we didn’t get into their bodies,” Hoosiers coach Tom Crean said. ”We weren’t physical enough on the glass. That’s the bottom line.”
Zeller, the 2nd-leading shooter in the Big 10, went 2 for 9. He had 9 points with 4 turnovers. Minnesota Golden Gophers had 40 points in the paint to Indiana’s 22.
Mbakwe, a 6th-year senior, had lots to do with that. While positing his conference-leading 7th double-double of the season, the 24-year-old Mbakwe was a man among boys in some ways in this game, dominating both ends of the court when the Gophers needed him most. He grabbed 6 of Minnesota’s 23 offensive rebounds, 2 of them to keep a key possession alive. His off-balance put-back drew contact for a 3-point play with 7:22 left that gave the Gophers a 55-52 lead.
Mbakwe was requested a loudly questioned blocking foul, his 4th, with 4:39 remaining on Zeller’s fast-break layup and free throw that put the Hoosiers up 59-58. But Austin Hollins answered with a pump-fake layup that drew a bad for a 3-point play and a 2-point advantage for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. NFL lines
The Hoosiers didn’t lead again, and Joe Coleman’s fast-break dunk with 2:35 left gave Golden Gophers a 68-61 cushion that helped it bear a couple of 3-pointers by Christian Watford and one by Jordan Hulls in the closing minutes. That was the only basket Hulls made after halftime. He had 17 points.
The Indiana Hoosiers are still in position for their 1st outright Big 10 regular-season championship since 1993. With another home game against Ohio State on March 5, Indiana could still clinch the title before the finale at Michigan on March 10.