Two days after ripping Wisconsin with the season on the line at Williams Arena, the Gophers once again came back ready to play and dumped the Indiana Hoosiers by 23 points. The Gophers held Indiana to 32% shooting from the field and, perhaps more important, didn’t allow them to get anything going from beyond the arc. Indiana was only 6-21 from three-point land, a spot that has been sore for much of the Gopher season.
With the victory Minnesota completes its first two-game winning streak since the beginning of January, a span of 12 games, and once again the team looked much unlike they have in other parts of the season. Passes were crisp, shots were falling and the offense looked more in sync than it has all season. As the season winds down to the final five games, it’s nice to see the Gophers settling into some comfort on both ends of the court.
The Gophers jumped out to a big 22-9 and really never looked back, taking a 44-25 lead into the half. Led by a cool 20-point performance by Lawrence Westbrook, Minnesota registered 11 scorers in the box score. Even Bryant Allen got into the column. Indiana’s healthiest scorer, Verdell Jones III, was held to only two field goals and was forced to keep his tongue in his mouth.
From top to bottom the Gophers dominated a team they should dominate. They outhustled, outshot, outrebounded and outdefended the Hoosiers. Once again they took care of the ball, didn’t have to force shots and didn’t commit stupid fouls. The starting five played like leaders and gave Tubby no reason to implement his “line change” format of substituting, allowing for excellent game flow once again.
The Gophers next host Purdue in perhaps the most important game left on the schedule. The Boilermakers represent the last chance for a marquee win and a victory would inject life into the Gophers’ NCAA Tournament hopes. With the team appearing to have found new life and confidence, there’s no reason to think that Minnesota can’t take Purdue to the wire when they come to town on Wednesday.
- Westbrook started the game soundly and finished with 20 points. Unlike other performances where he has often tried to force shots and plays, he attempted only nine shots and finished the game without a turnover — something he hasn’t done since Dec. 23.
- Damian Johnson finished with 16 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks. He also posted up several times down low, showcasing yet another dimension where he excels. Call me crazy, but at this point I’d rather have DJ down low posting up than Ralph Sampson or Colton Iverson.
- Speaking of Sampson, he scored in double digits for the second straight game and continued to show unprecedented intensity on the block. The team desperately needs Ralph to have his game face on if they want to maintain their current level of play.
- Blake Hoffarber finished with only six points and attempted only one three-pointer. Even when not lighting up the box score, though, Hoffarber continues to be an important part of the offense, helping the overall flow of the offense and creating open shots for his teammates just by being on the floor.
- Rodney Williams made the SportsCenter Top Plays with his first half alley-oop from Sampson. Williams basically appeared to levitate above the rim for what seemed like several seconds before throwing down a huge dunk. His athleticism continues to amaze.
- Along with most of Gopher Nation, it was nice to see the Gophers silence Verdell Jones III. His tongue-out, prima donna approach to the game was incredibly annoying in the Hoosier victory over the Gophers and seeing him struggle was very refreshing.