Overview: It's hard to imagine anyone beating Indiana on its home floor this season. For whatever reason — the insane crowd, the familiar sightlines, and did I mention the crowd — the Hoosiers seem to take their game up not just one notch but four or five when they take the floor in Assembly Hall.
That was the case Saturday, when Indiana made first-half minced meat of a very good, very physical Minnesota team on both ends of the floor. IU shot 21-of-32 from the field in the first half, including 7-of-11 from 3. Minnesota went just 12-of-26 in the same frame, and the six fewer shots were caused in part by their 12 turnovers — most of them forced by a consistently improving IU defense.
By the time the crimson-clad fans roared the Hoosiers into the halftime locker room, IU held a 52-29 lead.
Not that the Gophers didn't make a game of it. Minnesota slowly but surely came back in the second half, and they closed the lead to just four points with less than a minute remaining. Victor Oladipo committed some key 3-point fouls, including a late one on Minnesota guard Dre Hollins; that closed the lead to just three. Jordan Hulls missed two FTs late, but he got another chance when Cody Zeller won a diving 50/50 rebound. He made those and sealed the win. But it was not as easy as it should have been.
Key player: Victor Oladipo. It's hard to pick just one IU player. When you shoot and defend as well as IU did, pretty much everybody has to play well, and everybody did. Even so, Oladipo stood out. Oladipo is not only IU's best defender but has become its most efficient scoring option; entering Saturday, Oladipo was making 72 percent of his 2-point shots and 47.8 percent of his 3s. In Saturday's first half, he was 6-of-6 in the first half (including 1-of-1 from 3). He finished with 20 points on 8-of-10 shooting, with 6 rebounds (4 of them offensive), 3 steals and 2 assists.
(Yes, Oladipo made some truly bad fouls down the stretch, but even so, it's impossible to overlook the overall strength of his performance -- or the consistency with which he delivers it.)
Key stat: Offensive rebounding. The Gophers are the nation's best offensive rebounding team. They grab nearly 50 percent of available offensive boards this season. On Saturday, Indiana kept Minnesota in check on the glass -- both teams grabbed about 40 percent of their own misses -- and didn't cede any ground in the area where Minnesota is at its most difficult.
What's next: Minnesota has to be pretty pleased with the result of a really tough tour of the Assembly Halls this week. (It won at Illinois in convincing fashion Wednesday night.) The Gophers will get a day or two of rest before girding themselves for a massive home game against No. 2 Michigan on Thursday night.
Indiana, which moves to 15-1 on the season and 3-0 in the Big Ten, hosts Wisconsin on Tuesday and travels to Northwestern on Saturday.