Minnesota 70, Indiana 65
MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Jeff Hagen had 15 points and eight rebounds to lead Minnesota to an important 70-65 victory over Indiana on Wednesday night.
Vince Grier also scored 15 points, and J’son Stamper—getting his third start of the season—had nine points and eight rebounds to help the Gophers (14-5, 4-2 Big Ten) win for the 12th time in 14 games.
D.J. White led the Hoosiers (9-8, 4-2) with 23 points, and Bracey Wright missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts to finish with 19 points. Indiana’s four-game winning streak ended after a 2-for-19 shooting performance from behind the arc. Minnesota went 6-for-15.
After a brutal slate of nonconference contests including losses to North Carolina, Connecticut, Kentucky, Missouri and Notre Dame, the young Hoosiers had won seven of their past eight games.
They endured an 18-2 run by Minnesota that created a 15-point deficit early in the second half. In a sure sign things were going the Gophers’ way, Pat Ewing Jr. fouled Hagen—who was dribbling in the post with his back to the basket—as the shot-block buzzer sounded.
But Robert Vaden, who scored 13 points, helped bring Indiana back. Wright missed three of his 3-pointers in the final minute, though, allowing Minnesota to hang on.
Wright converted a three-point play with 14.5 seconds left, slicing the lead to 68-65, but the Gophers escaped the full-court pressure and Brent Lawson hit a pair of foul shots on the other end to seal it.
With games at Illinois Saturday and at Michigan next week, plus a home date with Wisconsin on Feb. 5, this was critical toward Minnesota’s NCAA tournament hopes. With quality losses to No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 14 Alabama, No. 15 Michigan State and No. 23 Iowa, the Gophers should give the committee plenty to consider if they break even the rest of the way.
As with Saturday’s game against Michigan State in which he hobbled his way to 16 points in 26 minutes, Hagen was a game-time decision with his sprained left knee.
After converting a three-point play off an up-and-under move on Minnesota’s first possession, the senior center looked a lot more mobile than he did in the 69-55 loss to the Spartans.
The Gophers grabbed a 26-22 lead, the biggest by any team during an even first half, on Aaron Robinson’s first of three 3-pointers.
Freshman Spencer Tollackson has shown promise, but in the last two games it’s been clear Minnesota needs Hagen on the floor.
In a minute span midway through the first half, Ewing—son of the former NBA great—altered a missed shot by Tollackson underneath and scored four points on the other end, including a rim-rattling, one-handed dunk. Hagen quickly re-entered the game.
The Gophers, 12-1 when leading at the half this season, took a 31-30 advantage before the break on a layup by Dan Coleman. The Hoosiers then missed 10 of their first 11 shots of the second half and fell behind 47-32 on a basket by Rico Tucker.
Indiana has lost six of its last seven games on the raised floor at Williams Arena.