MINNEAPOLIS -- A Minnesota team that appeared to be sliding backwards into March was simply tougher than No. 1 Indiana on Tuesday night in a 77-73 upset of the Hoosiers.
Minnesota played with more energy than the Hoosiers. The Gophers dominated Indiana on the backboards. And Tubby Smith's team made better decisions down the stretch.
The win gave Minnesota an upset of the nation's No. 1 team for the first time since 1989.
Trevor Mbakwe, Minnesota's sixth-year senior, provided much of the energy as the Gophers outrebounded Indiana 38-25. Going after every missed shot, Mbakwe led all scorers with a season-high 21 points and 12 rebounds. After a quiet first half, Andre Hollins finished with 16 points for Minnesota while Joe Coleman scored nine.
Jordan Hulls led Indiana with 17 points while added Victor Oladipo finished with 16. Yogi Ferrell finished with 10 for the Hoosiers. Cody Zeller didn't make a field goal for more than 34 minutes and finished with nine points on 2-for-9 shooting.
The victory couldn't have come at a better time for the Gophers (19-9, 7-8 Big Ten) as Minnesota entered the game having lost two in a row, eight of 11 and were in danger of falling into ninth place in the Big Ten standings.
By losing, Indiana (24-4, 12-3) allowed the Big Ten race to become more interesting. The Hoosiers had won nine out of 10 games, but now lead Michigan State by one game in the Big Ten standings with three games to play. Had the Hoosiers won, they would have needed only one more victory to clinch at least a share of the Big Ten title.
Indiana took a brief 59-58 lead when Zeller completed a 3-point play with 4:39 to play. The Gophers immediately answered by throwing a long pass to Austin Hollins who caught the ball and went in for his own 3-point play with 4:36 to play.
After Indiana turned the ball over, Andre Hollins used a very good Elliot Elliason screen and buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key that extended Minnesota's lead to 64-59 with 3:45 to play.
Those two baskets sparked a 10-2 run for the Gophers as Minnesota scored on four consecutive possessions and took a 68-61 lead when Coleman dunked with 2:35 to play. As was case much of the night, Indiana struggled to get key baskets from there. Over the final five minutes of the game, Minnesota scored 21 points and Indiana never got closer than four until Hulls made a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds to play.
The Hoosiers actually looked like they were going to take control of the game early in the second half. When Oladipo scored in transition with just more than 15 minutes to play, Indiana's lead was eight, 44-36. But Minnesota didn't go away.
Reserve big man Elliott Eliason scored seven points in a 15-4 Gophers spurt. Eliason's hook shot tied the game 46-46. Two minutes later, Andre Hollins made his first 3-pointer of the game and Minnesota led 51-48 with 8:51 to play.
Minnesota, looking for its first victory over a team ranked No. 1 since 1989, kept the game close during the first 20 minutes in large part by playing with more energy than the Hoosiers.
Mbakwe played a significant role in that. The senior, whom Indiana coach Tom Crean initially recruited to Marquette, scored 10 of Minnesota's first 14 points and had 12 points and eight rebounds by halftime. On the other end of the floor, Mbakwe played physical and energetic defense on Zeller.
Minnesota made it difficult for Zeller to get the ball in the first half. When he did get it, he couldn't finish. Zeller, who entered the game averaging 16.6 points per game, didn't score a field goal in the first half and had only two points at the break.
The Gophers led 16-10 early, but the Hoosiers got back into the game by making shots from the perimeter. Hulls mad four 3-pointers in the first half. His 3-pointer with 12:19 to play in the half gave Indiana a 20-16 lead.
The Hoosiers led the rest of the half, but they were unable to pull away. Minnesota closed within 31-29 when Coleman dunked with 3:20 to play in the half. Hulls stretched the lead with a 3-pointer with just more than a minute left, and the Hoosiers led 34-30 at the break.
NOTES: The month of February has not been kind to Minnesota in recent years. The Gophers were 3-4 this month. Over the past three Februarys, Minnesota was 5-17. ... With two more home games, the Hoosiers are in good position to secure at least a share of the Big Ten title. Indiana will host Iowa and Ohio State before ending the regular season with what will be an anticipated game at Michigan. ... The Gophers host Penn State in their home finale Saturday. Minnesota closes the regular season with road games at Purdue and Nebraska. ... Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn was in attendance.