Minnesota proved once again that no Big Ten basketball team is safe on the road as the Golden Gophers sent No. 1 Indiana packing after a 77-73 victory in Minneapolis.
The matchup between Indiana center Cody Zeller and Minnesota forward Trevor Mbakwe was the key to the Gophers’ success. Mbakwe put up 12 points in the first half and frustrated Zeller on the other end of the floor.
Indiana's player-of-the-year candidate had just two points until there was 8:40 left in the game (he finished with nine points), but fortunately for the Hoosiers, the backcourt was able to pick up the slack. Jordan Hulls finished the contest with 17 points and went 5-of-7 from three-point range.
Victor Oladipo—who is also in position to take home a national award this season—continued to impress and delivered 16 points, in addition to another exceptional performance on defense.
Mbakwe had a game-high 21 points, but foul trouble forced him to the bench for a large chunk of the second half. Once he was back on the court, he resumed his dominance down low.
He led the charge and the rest of his team responded. Minnesota was clearly the more physical team and dominated the boards, winning the rebounding battle, 38-25.
Mbakwe turned in his best performance of the season and it resulted in his team’s biggest win of the year.
Will Sheehey earned the highlight of the first half when he drove down the middle of the lane and delivered an emphatic finish. The dunk prompted this response from 247 Sports' Dave Biddle:
Will Sheehey: Not a fan of the movie White Men Can't Jump.— Dave Biddle (@davebiddle) February 27, 2013
CBS Sports' Jeff Borzello took note of the battle between two of the Big Ten's best big men. The stats show who the clear winner was during the first 20 minutes:
Trevor Mbakwe: 12 points, six rebounds. Cody Zeller: Two points, two rebounds.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 27, 2013
Rivals.com's Jeff Rabjohns pointed out that Zeller was not the only Hoosier who struggled from the field at the start of this contest:
Cody Zeller, Yogi Ferrell, Christian Watford a combined 0-11 from the field to start for Indiana.— Jeff Rabjohns (@JeffRabjohns) February 27, 2013
But the Big Ten Network's Tom Dienhart added some perspective and reminded his followers that Indiana was still four points up at halftime, despite a few of its stars' struggles:
Even with Mbakwe on the bench due to foul trouble, ESPN's Myron Medcalf noted that Elliott Eliason made sure Zeller received no rest Tuesday night:
Wow. Elliott Eliason with a hook over Zeller. Zeller's nightmare continues.— Myron Medcalf (@MedcalfByESPN) February 27, 2013
Former NBA coach and current ESPN analyst Flip Saunders did his best to keep things PG while describing Mbakwe's gutsy performance:
Mbakwa may be too small but he is kicking Zeller and indiana's A_ _!— Flip Saunders (@Flip_Saunders) February 27, 2013
When victory seemed imminent for the Gophers, California-based ABC reporter Joe Henke offered a warning to the manic Minnesota fans:
A raised basketball court wasn't built to be rushed. Could be some injuries coming up in Minnesota. Just saying. Be careful kids— Joe Henke (@JoeHenke) February 27, 2013
Back to Borzello for something college-basketball fans did not expect to see at the start of this season:
So...Gonzaga is going to be No. 1.— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) February 27, 2013
Indiana dropped to 24-4 overall and 12-3 in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers will return home to face Iowa on Saturday, March 2.
Minnesota's home crowd saw its team improve to 19-9 on the season and 7-8 in conference play. The Gophers will also play at home on Saturday in a matchup with Penn State.