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Gophers men lack urgency, lose to Indiana in final home game

Going from last place in the Big Ten to having a bye in the first round of the conference tournament is a sign of progress in Ben Johnson's third year running the Gophers men's basketball program.

No matter what happened in the final two regular-season games, the Gophers would finish no lower than 10th place in the Big Ten. That would be their best finish since 2018-19.

Johnson's players wanted to accomplish more this year, but the Gophers came out seemingly with little to play for in a dismal all-around effort in Wednesday night's 70-58 loss against Indiana in front of an announced crowd of 9,000 at Williams Arena.

"We've got to have more urgency for sure," said Johnson after his team saw its five-game home win streak broken in the final game this season to finish 16-4 at the Barn.

The Gophers (18-12, 9-10 Big Ten) were hoping for a double-bye in the first two rounds in the Big Ten tournament at Target Center next week, but that opportunity vanished after allowing 48 points in the paint and committed 18 turnovers Wednesday.

Parker Fox had a team-high 14 points on 5-for-5 field goals off the bench. Dawson Garcia had 12 points and 12 rebounds. Mike Mitchell Jr. finished with 13 points, but the Gophers shot 5-for-26 from three-point range.

"We just didn't have the right mentality today," Fox said. "Even if we don't shoot the ball well, if we play with edge and compete, we give ourselves a chance. We didn't do that."

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BOXSCORE: Indiana 70, Gophers 58

Similar to the 74-62 loss in Bloomington on Jan. 12, the Gophers struggled to contain Indiana's frontcourt with Kel'el Ware finishing with 26 points and 11 rebounds. The Hoosiers (17-13, 9-10) had 26 points in the paint in the first half to lead 30-25 at halftime.

Garcia and Elijah Hawkins were scoreless on a combined 0-for-8 shooting in the first half. Pharrel Payne led the Gophers with eight points at the break, but he went to the bench grimacing after a hard fall less than a minute into the second half. The 6-9 sophomore played only six minutes in the second half because of lingering back issues.

Garcia, who had a 29-point game at Illinois last week, finally got his first basket of the game early in the second half. A window opened for the Gophers to take advantage when Ware picked up his third foul with over 16 minutes to play.

The offensive woes continued. After Fox was called for a questionable charge, Garcia's turnover led to an uncontested layup by Ware that fueled another Hoosiers rally.

Frustrated fans watched the Gophers go down by 19 points after Mackenzie Mgbako and Ware combined to hit four threes during a four-minute stretch.

Big Ten basketball standings

Playing in his final home game Wednesday, Fox carried the Gophers with eight consecutive points in the second half. The Mahtomedi native also provided the spark in last Sunday's 75-70 win against Penn State on Senior Day after his team trailed by 23 points in the first half.

The Gophers cut it to 59-46 with five minutes left following consecutive threes from Mitchell and Cam Christie, but they couldn't avoid a disappointing end to the home schedule.

Hawkins, Christie and Mitchell all played 38-plus minutes Wednesday to make up for the absence of Braeden Carrington, who missed his second straight game with a concussion. The U's starting backcourt shot 8-for-36 from the field, including 4-for-23 from three combined.

A Gophers' victory Saturday at Northwestern could still put them in line for a single-digit seed in the Big Ten tourney, which they have to likely win now to get to the NCAA tourney. You'd think they would be up for that matchup.

"It's an opportunity to right a wrong," Johnson said about Saturday. "You win that game, it makes up for this one and now you have momentum going into the Big Ten tournament."