Men’s basketball: Gophers fall in big hole and lose 74-62 to Indiana

Ben Johnson foreshadowed the start of Friday’s game at Indiana.

On Wednesday, the Gophers men’s basketball head coach relayed that he had told his team about the challenge of playing at Assembly Hall in Bloomington.

“I addressed it right away, this is probably going to be the best environment we’ve played in,” Johnson told reporters on the U’s practice court. “We have to find a way to not have that impact us the first four minutes and have the ‘oohs’ and the ‘aahs.’ ”

The Gophers fell into a nine-point hole within these first four minutes and couldn’t recover in a 74-62 loss to the Hoosiers.

Minnesota (12-4, 3-2 Big Ten) had a seven-game win streak, including three in Big Ten play, come to an end.

As a 4.5-point favorite, Indiana (12-5, 4-2) increased its unbeaten home streak against Minnesota to 12 years since 2012.

Johnson understands that addressing the tough road environment to his still-young and inexperienced team would be one thing — living it another.

“They are going to be loud,” Johnson said of the Hoosiers fans. “There’s going to be a momentum play. Try to get them to understand that now and say we don’t want to battle that and have the big eyes that first four to eight minutes. But unfortunately we still got to go through it. It’s experiences when you are dealing with a new group.”

The Gophers fell in a 17-point hole less than eight minutes into the game but cut the deficit to 41-31 at the half. The rejuvenation was short-lived and the crater sank to 21 points at 60-39.

“They jumped on us from the start,” Johnson said on KTLK postgame Friday. “… In this league, it’s too hard. You get down. I think it was 11-2. You are trying so hard just to get back in the game and you are expending so much energy. … The start really, really bothered us.”

The Hoosiers didn’t have much trouble getting through the Gophers’ zone defense, while Minnesota shot poorly from deep. The U made only 3 of 20 from 3-point range.

Minnesota’s two most important players — Dawson Garcia and Elijah Hawkins — each picked up two fouls within the first four minutes and subbed out. Without their leaders, Minnesota struggled with direction on offense and the turnovers stacked up. At one point, seven U turnovers had turned into 10 points for the Hoosiers.

The nadir was a 25-8 margin with 12:14 left in the first half.

The U’s trio of starting guards — Hawkins, Cam Christie and Mike Mitchell — were a combined 4 for 28 from the field and totaled 12 points.

But Pharrel Payne’s presence in the post helped the Gophers keep it somewhat close with a 15-3 run to make it 28-23 with six minutes left in the first half. He had 12 first-half points, missing only one of six shots, and four rebounds. He finished with a team-high 17 points and 10 rebounds and a career-high five blocked shots.

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