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Gophers' NCAA tourney hopes fading fast after loss to Indiana

It was a must-win game for the Gophers, who are on the NCAA tourney bubble.

Welp. The Gophers blew another double-digit lead at home, leaving Williams Arena to boos after falling 68-56 to the Indiana Hoosiers. Indiana, who came in having lost five of six games, ended the night on an 8-0 run, three days after Iowa ended its matchup on an 11-0 run to beat Minnesota.

Trayce Jackson-Davis was unstoppable for the Hoosiers, finishing with game-highs of 27 points and 16 rebounds on 11-15 shooting, nearly matching the total made baskets of the entire Minnesota starting lineup, which finished with 17 made shots. Payton Willis and Marcus and Carr led the U with 12 points each, as the team shot 34% overall, 16% from three and 53% at the free-throw line. 

“One of the missions of the game was to make it look ugly,” Indiana coach Archie Miller said, and in that aspect his team succeeded with flying colors.

“We didn’t make any shots and we couldn’t grasp that we needed to drive the ball,” said coach Richard Pitino.

Those missed shots were the defining story of yet another loss. To wit:

Shooting. The Gophers came out hot, hitting 9 of their first 11 shots – Willis went 4-4 in the first 6:10 – to jump out to a 21-13 lead. They then proceeded to shoot 12-50 the rest of the game, finishing 21-61 for a mark of just 34%. They missed ten of eleven shots to end the first half. They missed ten of thirteen to start the second. They missed nine of ten to end the game. They missed follow-ups at the rim. They missed (a lot of) open threes. They missed a lay-up on two-on-one fast break. Gabe Kalscheur shot 1-11. Daniel Oturu shot 5-15. Carr shot 3-9. Minnesota’s shooting has been suspect all year, and tonight was the worst example of that.

“It’s hard when you’re missing that many shots,” said Pitino, who emphasized his players’ ability to knock down open looks. “They’re much better shooters than they’re showing.”

“They missed some really good shots,” agreed Indiana coach Archie Miller.

Three-point shooting. On an early second-half possession, Carr kicked to an open Kalscheur who missed an open three; Oturu got the offensive rebound and kicked back out to Kalscheur, who missed another three; Kalscheur then got his own offensive rebound, and missed another three. It was that kind of night. The team shot 4-25 overall, which somehow becomes even worse given that they made their first two threes of the night.

Free-throw shooting. After Kalscheur missed the third three, Oturu grabbed a second offensive rebound and was fouled going back up. He then stepped to the line and missed both free throws. A game after shooting just 6-12, punctuated by Oturu missing the front end of a one-and-one down two with 3.7 seconds left, Minnesota again left too many points at the line, finishing just 10-19 as five players – Oturu, Carr, Kalscheur, Michael Hurt, and Willis, who failed to convert on a technical attempt – missed from the charity stripe. Indiana, by contrast, went 16-22.

“The 22 free-throw attempts, making 16 – that was big for us,” said Miller. “They struggled from the line a little bit which hurt them.”

Defense. And while Minnesota’s shooting left a lot to be desired, so too did the defense, as Indiana connected on 48% of its looks from the field in the second half to come back and win the game. Letting bad offense translate to the defensive end “has been a bad habit all year,” Willis noted after the game, “and it happened again tonight.”

Before we go, one positive:

Offensive rebounds. Minnesota pulled down 13 offensive rebounds, with Oturu grabbing five and Willis, Carr, Kalscheur, Demir, Hurt, and Isaiah Ihnen also getting at least one. Unfortunately, those offensive rebounds led to a grand total of zero second-chance points.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that,” said Pitino.

Just one of those nights, unfortunately.

Next up for Minnesota is a trip to Northwestern on Sunday. If they want to make the NCAA tournament, they’ll have to win that – and then win a bunch more after that.

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