Jones, Watford get Indiana past Minnesota 81-78
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP)—Verdell Jones made a 12-foot jumper with 32.8 seconds left to give Indiana the lead in overtime and freshman Christian Watford made two free throws to seal the Hoosiers’ 81-78 victory over Minnesota on Sunday.
Jones finished with a career-high 24 points, while Watford had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Indiana scored the last eight points to end a three-game losing streak and students streamed onto the court afterward. The Hoosiers (8-9, 2-3 Big Ten) have now won more conference games than they did all of last season.
Minnesota (12-6, 3-3) lost for the third time in four games. Devoe Joseph led the Golden Gophers with 19 points. Ralph Sampson III finished with 17.
Indiana, which has had a tendency to blow big leads in the second half the last two seasons, nearly did it again.
The Hoosiers never trailed in regulation and Minnesota couldn’t even tie it until Joseph’s 10-footer with 9.6 seconds to go in regulation.
After the Hoosiers called a timeout, they nearly threw away the inbound pass but the officials ruled Minnesota’s Al Nolen stepped on the sideline, giving Indiana a second chance. This time, Watford missed a 17-footer and Derek Elston’s tip hit off the side of the backboard.
Minnesota took control early in overtime.
Joseph opened the 5-minute session with two straight 3s, finally giving the Gophers a 76-71 lead. They still led 78-73 with 2:24 to play, but Jones answered with two free throws, a 17-foot jumper and a 12-footer that gave Indiana a 79-78 lead.
The Gophers had a chance to win it, but Joseph’s 10-footer bounced off the rim, Watford grabbed the rebound, drew the foul and made two free throws to seal it.
Indiana led 40-36 at the half but instead of blowing the lead as in previous games, the Hoosiers expanded it. They led by as much as 59-44 before Minnesota got back into the game with an 8-0 run.
Minnesota still couldn’t get closer until the final minutes of regulation when Paul Carter and Sampson connected on 3 of 4 free throws and Carter spun in for a layup to make it 68-66 with 1:47 left.
After Derek Elston made 1-of-2 free throws for the Hoosiers, Joseph’s 10-footer made it 69-68 with 30.9 seconds left. Jones followed that by missing the second of two free throws and Joseph tossed in another 10-footer to tie it at 70.