The Indiana Hoosiers have their good days and their bad days. On Saturday, we saw both—one in the first half and one in the second—in an 88-81 win over the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
No. 5 Indiana took it to visiting No. 8 Minnesota in the first half, as a battle of Big Ten juggernauts turned into a one-sided affair by halftime at Assembly Hall.
Indiana (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) jumped out to a 52-29 halftime lead, using a balanced effort and a big transition game to make Minnesota uncomfortable on defense. Victor Oladipo was an efficient 6-of-6 from the floor in the first half, and Yogi Ferrell also had a nice first half with his speed and quickness, distributing to playmakers and avoiding turnovers.
However, Minnesota (15-2, 3-1) isn't going to go quietly. Take note, Big Ten.
The Golden Gophers did come out firing in the second half, cutting the 23-point deficit as close as three with 18 ticks to play. But the Hoosiers escaped on Saturday and managed to keep Minnesota at bay until the final buzzer with free-throw shooting and a timely stop.
All five of the Indiana starters were in double figures midway through the second half—a hallmark of the program since its return to dominance. Minnesota's five starters also all finished in double figures. Oladipo led the way for Indiana with 20 points and three steals, while Jordan Hulls had 19 points, and Cody Zeller added 18 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
Christian Watford finished with 15 points and nine rebounds for the Hoosiers, while Yogi Ferrell added 13 points and eight assists. Indiana's bench had three—count 'em—points on the night, which is a major concern for the coaching staff going forward.
Minnesota guard Andre Hollins was the star for head coach Tubby Smith, keeping the Gophers in the game while the rest of the starting unit struggled. He finished with 25 points on 8-of-20 shooting, leading the way for his team. Austin Hollins added 13 points, and Trevor Mbakwe had 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Both teams struggled with turnovers, particularly Indiana down the stretch. Hollins had a chance to make it a two-point game with free throws and then again with a late three, but his efforts were in vain, and Indiana escaped at home.
It was a tale of two halves for both teams. There are a lot of positives and negatives for each to draw on as they get back to preparing for the rest of conference play.
Announcers are one of the best parts about college basketball, and the Big Ten Network made sure to send a colorful guy for this one—Fox Sports football's Gus Johnson. Joe Reedy had the tweet:
Gus alert. He's calling Indiana-Minnesota on B1G Network— Joe Reedy (@joereedy) January 12, 2013
It was another standout game from the floor for IU's Oladipo, who is quickly rising in both stat categories and national voting categories across the country. BTN.com's Brent Yarina had the report:
Ridiculous stat: #Hoosiers Victor Oladipo is shooting 67.2 percent, the highest of all D1 players under 6-6. (via STATS)— Brent Yarina (@BTNBrentYarina) January 12, 2013
As noted by ESPN's Stats and Information, Indiana's first half was certainly a sight for Indiana sore eyes:
Indiana's 52 points in the 1st half vs Minnesota is 2 shy of its season high for any half. Every point scored is by a starter.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 12, 2013
As Dan Dakich noted during the broadcast, this Oladipo kid is something special—maybe even NBA top talent going forward:
Wooden award voters..Oladipo...I'm embarrassed for you— Dan Dakich (@dandakich) January 12, 2013
ESPN's Myron Medcalf had an interesting perspective on the game, taking note of Indiana's early-season loss to Butler:
Some folks may come away from this saying, "Minnesota is overrated" when it should be "Indiana is very good and capable of beating anyone."— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) January 12, 2013
Jon Rothstein was impressed by guard Ferrell's first half, calling it his best of the season.
This was the best 20 minute stretch Yogi Ferrell has played all season for Indiana. 8 points, 7 assists, 1 turnover.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) January 12, 2013
As good as Oladipo was, he made three crucial mistakes in this one, as noted by Terry Hutchens:
That has to be a record. Oladipo just fouled a Minnesota player for the third time this game on a 3-point attempt. IU clings to a 84-79 lead— Terry Hutchens (@indystar_hutch) January 12, 2013
ESPN's Andy Katz had a public plea for voters following the close loss:
This is my plea to AP voters. Don't drop Minnesota if the Gophers lose this game. They are a top 10 team, playing on the road. Right there.— Andy Katz (@ESPNAndyKatz) January 12, 2013
And finally, Yahoo! Sports writer Pat Forde will take us home with a troubling bit of commentary for the rest of Big Ten teams on the road at Assembly Hall:
It will take a great team playing great to beat Indiana in Assembly Hall this year. I don't see it happening. Dazzling firepower.— Pat Forde (@YahooForde) January 12, 2013
This is certainly a rough loss for Minnesota after a good start to the season, but there's no time to dwell on what could have been. No. 2 Michigan is coming to town next Thursday, so Minnesota needs to rebound quickly with four days to prepare.
For Indiana, the schedule lightens up a little bit until facing Michigan State on Jan. 27. We've seen that the starters can score for the Hoosiers, but Tom Crean needs more production from his bench going forward to make a serious run late in the season.
One injury could certainly cripple the Hoosiers' title chances, as could poor execution—something Crean will stress as the team watches film tomorrow. Indiana improves to 4-0 in conference play and takes care of business yet again.
Love 'em or hate 'em, Indiana is a good basketball team. The Hoosiers look poised to be a force in the Big Ten, and we'll look forward to their Feb. 2 home game against Michigan in the interim.
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team.