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Gophers short on post advantage in 74-62 loss at Indiana

The Gophers men's basketball team was starting to hear a different narrative about them forming early in Big Ten play. The Gophers' seven-game winning streak was the longest in the league entering Friday's game at Indiana.

With a chance to keep their streak alive, the Gophers were overpowered in the paint and couldn't overcome a horrid shooting night from their backcourt in a 74-62 loss to the Hoosiers at Assembly Hall.

"They're one of the biggest teams in the country," coach Ben Johnson told local media. "So it's hard. We can't simulate that. They do a good job of playing through their bigs, too."

The Gophers (12-4, 3-2 Big Ten) were led by Pharrel Payne's 17 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, including his 12 points in the first half. But they started both halves with him on the bench, which enabled Indiana to really take control inside.

By the time the Gophers consistently played through Payne and leading scorer Dawson Garcia in the post it was too late. Garcia had 13 of his 14 points in the second half.

The Hoosiers (12-5, 4-2) scored 38 points in the paint. Kel'el Ware made his impact with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Malik Reneau had 14 of his 16 points in the second half. McKenzie Mgbako had 14 of his career-high 19 points in the first half to spark Indiana's 41-31 halftime advantage.

"They kind of force you to make a decision," Johnson said on dealing with Indiana's size. "We had a couple of bad rotations that they capitalized on on our post double."

During the seven-game winning streak, Minnesota leaned a lot on its starting backcourt of Elijah Hawkins, Mike Mitchell Jr. and Cam Christie, but the guards were abysmal Friday with just 12 points on 4-for-28 shooting combined. Hawkins also got into foul trouble early.

By the time Payne came off the bench in the first half, Garcia already picked up two fouls. Payne's inside presence made a difference to fuel an 11-0 run. Christie's three-pointer cut it to 28-23 around the six-minute mark, but the Gophers wouldn't get any closer.

Johnson's team had made big second-half comebacks during the win streak. The Gophers picked up all three Big Ten victories so far this season after trailing at halftime, including last week's 73-71 victory at Michigan.

Trying to limit Indiana's post play, the Gophers switched from playing man to their zone defense, but they avoided the seemingly obvious adjustment. Going bigger early and often.

In the second half, Johnson stuck with the same starting lineup with Payne on the bench. The Hoosiers immediately took advantage by going through the 7-footer Ware inside. He scored six points during a 15-4 run that was capped by Trey Galloway's three to make it 56-35.

Garcia and Payne played more together once Indiana began pulling away in the second half. The 6-11 junior and 6-9 sophomore scored 10 consecutive points combined to help the Gophers battle back to within 69-58, including Payne's tipped basket with two minutes to play.

The lack of outside shooting to complement the Gophers' inside play late kept them from rallying any further. They combined to shoot just 3-for-20 from three-point range Friday.

The Gophers, who shot just 39% and committed 14 turnovers, will look to regroup with a quick turnaround Monday at home against Iowa.

"They jumped on us from the start," Johnson said. "It's hard to win on the road. You've got to play your best. When you don't, then games like this are going to happen."

The Star Tribune did not send the writer of this article to the game. This was written using a broadcast, interviews and other material.