9:00 PM ET, January 26, 2005
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- As his team ran out the clock on a critical victory, Minnesota coach Dan Monson raised his arms in relief.Despite Monson's attempt to downplay its importance, the Gophers came up with a big one.Jeff Hagen had 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, and Vince Grier also scored 15 points to help Minnesota beat Indiana 70-65 on Wednesday night."When the day is done," Monson said, "I think it's really scary for this team to sit down and say one game is more important than another."If you put more importance on this one than playing Penn State, you're making a huge mistake."J'son Stamper, getting his third start of the season, had nine points and eight rebounds to help the Gophers (14-5, 4-2 Big Ten) win for the 12th time in 14 games.D.J. White led the Hoosiers (9-8, 4-2) with 23 points, and Bracey Wright missed all 10 of his 3-point attempts to finish with 19 points. Indiana's four-game winning streak ended after a 2-for-19 shooting performance from behind the arc. Minnesota went 6-for-15."It's a road game," coach Mike Davis said. "It's not the end of the world. I think people get caught up in every Big Ten game being a do-or-die game."After a brutal slate of nonconference contests including losses to North Carolina, Connecticut, Kentucky, Missouri and Notre Dame, the young Hoosiers had won seven of their past eight.They endured an 18-2 run by the Gophers that created a 15-point deficit midway through the second half. In a sure sign things were going Minnesota's way, Pat Ewing Jr. fouled Hagen -- who was dribbling in the post with his back to the basket -- as the shot-block buzzer sounded with nine minutes remaining.White and Robert Vaden, who scored 13 points, helped bring Indiana back. Wright missed three of his 3-pointers in the final minute, though, allowing the Gophers to hang on."We just couldn't put the ball in the hole," said White, who shot 10-for-16 from the floor while taking advantage of Minnesota's perimeter-focused defense.Wright converted a three-point play with 14.5 seconds left, slicing the lead to 68-65, but the Gophers escaped the full-court pressure and Brent Lawson hit a pair of foul shots on the other end to seal it."We made it uglier than we had to, but we pulled it out in the end," said Stamper, who grabbed several key rebounds down the stretch and went 7-for-10 from the free-throw line over the final five minutes.With games at Illinois Saturday and at Michigan next week, plus a home date with Wisconsin on Feb. 5, this was game meant a lot toward Minnesota's NCAA tournament hopes despite Monson's wishes to the contrary.With quality losses to No. 13 Oklahoma, No. 14 Alabama, No. 15 Michigan State and No. 23 Iowa, the Gophers should give the selection committee plenty to consider if they break even the rest of the way."The wins only get bigger as the season goes on," Lawson said. "It's important for us to stay ahead in the win column with a tough stretch coming up."As with Saturday's game against Michigan State in which he hobbled his way to 16 points in 26 minutes, Hagen was a game-time decision with his sprained left knee.After converting a three-point play off an up-and-under move on Minnesota's first possession, the senior center looked a lot more mobile than he did in the 69-55 loss to the Spartans. This time, Hagen had a custom-fit brace to wear on the knee.The Gophers grabbed a 26-22 lead, the biggest by any team during an even first half, on Aaron Robinson's first of three 3-pointers.Freshman Spencer Tollackson has shown promise, but in the last two games it's been clear Minnesota needs Hagen on the floor.In a minute span midway through the first half, Ewing -- son of the former NBA great -- altered a missed shot by Tollackson underneath and scored four points on the other end, including a rim-rattling, one-handed dunk. Hagen quickly re-entered the game.The Gophers, 12-1 when leading at the half this season, took a 31-30 advantage before the break on a layup by Dan Coleman. The Hoosiers then missed 10 of their first 11 shots of the second half and fell behind 47-32 on a basket by Rico Tucker.Indiana has lost six of its last seven on the raised floor at Williams Arena. Up next, on Saturday, is a game at Iowa."We've just got to go back into practice and get a focus," White said.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||25-56 (.446)||21-46 (.457)|
|3P Made-Attempted||2-19 (.105)||6-15 (.400)|
|FT Made-Attempted||13-17 (.765)||22-28 (.786)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||21 (0/0)||17 (0/0)|