ST. PAUL — The Gophers men’s basketball team’s NCAA tournament hopes fluttered on life support during much of the second half against Indiana on Wednesday night, Feb. 19, at Williams Arena.
While a miracle could yet happen, Minnesota’s goal to return to March Madness was effectively put out of its misery at 10:08 p.m. CT. Fans gave up minutes earlier, putting on parkas and heading for their cars.
Minnesota had a slim 31-28 halftime lead, but the Hoosiers took over in the second half and Gophers went nearly five minutes without a basket in a 68-56 loss.
Minnesota was a 5½-point favorite over Indiana and needed to turn the page from its giveaway 58-55 loss to Iowa on Sunday. Instead, the Gophers loss to a team they needed to claw past.
The Gophers and Hoosiers might have had identical 6-8 records in the Big Ten, but Indiana was 18 spots lower in the NET rating and was 1-6 in conference road games.
Hoosiers standout freshman Trayce Jackson Davis had 27 points and 16 rebounds. The Gophers were led by Payton Willis and Marcus Carr with 12 apiece. Daniel Oturu had 11 points and 14 rebounds.
The Hoosiers took a 37-36 lead with 16 minutes left in the game, their first lead since 16 minutes remained in the first half. They soon built on it with a 7-0 run as the Gophers were called for two offensive fouls to make it 44-38.
In the first half, the Gophers made nine of their first 10 shots and were scrapping for defensive rebounds and steals to take a 15-10 lead. The Gophers had a 10-point lead, but the Hoosiers cut it to 31-28 at the half.
Oturu appeared to re-injure his left shoulder when he was tied up with Armann Franklin with eight minutes left in the first half. He briefly left the 75-67 win over Michigan on Jan. 12, saying afterward his shoulder “slipped in and out.”
But Wednesday was like the Michigan game as Oturu soon returned and had a team-high-tying nine points and six rebounds. Willis also had nine, while Marcus Car had six assists.