There’s in no immunity to being the number one team in the nation, as the Indiana Hoosiers have now learned twice this season, dropping their third Big Ten game of the season with a loss to Minnesota, enjoying a big night from Trevor Mbakwe.
The senior isn’t exactly known for his scoring (9.9 points per game this season), but enjoyed his best game of the season and probably his career with 21 points and 12 rebounds against the popular choice for best team in the Big Ten and the nation. What he did (20-10 and better) isn’t something that happens often for Big Ten players against number one teams, becoming just the sixth player in history with that stat line against a #1, and the first since Jared Jeffries (a former Indiana players) in 2002 against Duke.
On the other hand, Indiana joins 1964-65 Michigan and 2002-03 Arizona as the only teams to lose 3 times to unranked opponents as the No. 1 team in the same season, the other losses coming against Butler, Wisconsin and Illinois, although they lost to the Illini when they weren’t the number one team in the nation.
They were relentless on the glass. We just didn’t do a great job of boxing them out. We weren’t physical enough on the glass. That’s the bottom line. We’re trying to do big things so we have to learn from this mistake, but we have to dust it off real fast.
If there was anywhere the Hoosiers lost the game, it was on the boards, getting outrebounded 44-30. Christian Watford grabbed only 2 rebounds in the game, while Cody Zeller finished with 9 points and 2-9 from the field. Victor Oladipo was good with 16 points and 5 rebounds, but his all-around skills weren’t enough to save the Hoosiers from a loss that doesn’t prevent them from remaining on top of the conference, and probably the nation.
It wasn’t only Mbwake that was big for Minnesota, as he spent some time on the bench during the second half with foul trouble. It was Elliott Eliason who scored seven consecutive points during a second-half stretch that kept Minnesota in the game. His only points, but possibly the most important of the game.
Minnesota were in the top 25 for 11 consecutive weeks, until the most recent AP Poll. Maybe that was what motivated them to a special performance.
We did need to play with a sense of urgency, play with a little edge. I think Trevor set that tone for us. We’ve had a lot of people supporting them, encouraging them. I think they knew how important the game was, but I sensed a very calm, matter-of-fact group of guys. They’re very confident about who they are.
The win for Minnesota was bigger than the loss was for Indiana, for obvious reasons. It’s hard to see the Hoosiers losing a number one seed in the tournament, while the Golden Gophers improve their chances of making it into the final 68 with this 77-73 win, improving to 7-8 in Big Ten play.