BLOOMINGTON — Players from both teams scramble for a loose ball after Indiana’s Jordan Hulls missed a free throw in the final minute of Saturday’s game against Minnesota.
But Hulls was determined to get the ball.
Leading by three, the senior guard grabbed the rebound and was fouled. Hulls made both free throws this time, and No. 5 IU held on for an 88-81 victory over No. 8 Minnesota in front of 17,472 fans at Assembly Hall.
“It wasn’t any of my doing. It was Cody (Zeller). Cody got into the lane and tipped it out,” Hulls said. “I was mad enough to go get it. It was a great play by Cody and a game changer for us.”
The first meeting between top 10 teams at Assembly Hall since Feb. 19, 2000, went from blowout to a near stunner. But IU (15-1, 3-0 Big Ten) did enough to win its sixth straight and end the Gophers’ 11-game winning streak.
“We continued to play extremely hard in the second half after getting off to a great lead. We didn’t always play as efficient as we needed to. We weren’t always on the attack the way we needed to be,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “But to outrebound a team like Minnesota (36-34), and you continue to go hard and have an answer when they have an answer for what you’re doing, it’s a big win.”
Victor Oladipo led the Hoosiers with 20 points. Hulls had 19 and Zeller finished with 18. Christian Watford had 15 points and eight rebounds. Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell had 13 points and eight assists.
IU couldn’t miss in the first half, particularly from three-point territory, and led 52-29 at halftime. But the Gophers (15-2, 3-1) used a swarming press to storm back.
“They did a great job of pushing us to the corners and trapping us,” Ferrell said. “We have to do a better job of taking care of the ball and not letting them come to us. We have to attack them.”
Andre Hollins made two of three free throws with 19 seconds remaining to get Minnesota within 84-81.
Hulls was fouled with 15 seconds left. A career 87.8 percent shooter from the foul line, Hulls missed both shots.
“We’ve got to hit free throws,” Hulls said. The Hoosiers went 26 for 40 from the line (65 percent). “That’s going to get us if we don’t hit our free throws. A lack of focus, I guess.”
But he grabbed the rebound after the second miss, was immediately fouled and got another chance at the line. This time, he came through.
“That’s just when you’re living right, when you miss free throws like that and you get your own rebound,” Crean said with a smile.
Hollins missed a three, and Watford made two free throws for the final points.
“We just have to do a better job of playing the full game,” Hulls said. “We just have to do a lot better job communicating on defense, moving the ball more on offense, do what we did best at the end of the first half.”
The Hoosiers shot 65.6 percent from the floor in the first half and made 7 of 11 three-pointers. IU went on an 18-2 run to build the big lead.
The Gophers started the second half with a 14-4 run to start cutting into the lead.
Hollins finished with 25 points to lead the Gophers. Trevor Mbakwe added 13 points and 10 rebounds.
“I was proud of the way we hung in there and didn’t give up, didn’t give in,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. “I thought we did things to help us give ourselves a chance.”
IU led by 10 with 1:10 to go, but 51 seconds later Hollins had cut it to three. But IU got the big rebound and made the big final stop to win their fourth straight home game against a top 10 team.
“I feel good,” Oladipo said, “but at the same time I know there’s a lot of stuff we need to work on.”