BOZICH: Minnesota Pushes -- and Indiana Retreats, 77-73 - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH: Minnesota Pushes -- and Indiana Retreats, 77-73

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Trevor Mbakwe hung 21 points on Indiana and Cody Zeller in a 77-73 Minnesota win. Trevor Mbakwe hung 21 points on Indiana and Cody Zeller in a 77-73 Minnesota win.

MINNEAPOLIS (WDRB) – Indiana has not won a share of the Big Ten regular-season championship since 2002, and the Hoosiers have not won the title outright since 1993.

The Hoosiers' march to either of those goals took a solid hit Tuesday night. Indiana got handled on the glass early, late and often as Minnesota defeated the top-ranked Hoosiers, 77-73 – and celebrated the victory with an old-fashioned court-storming.

The defeat left Indiana with 12-3 record in the Big Ten – one game ahead of Michigan State. It also left Indiana wondering what happened to the Hoosiers' defense and grit. It was the first time Minnesota scored more than 62 points in the Gophers' last seven games.

The surest sign of the problems that Indiana had came in this statistic: The Hoosiers did not get a basket from either Cody Zeller nor Christian Watford for the first 27 minutes.

Minnesota senior Trevor Mbakwe overpowered Indiana with 21 points and 12 rebounds. That can happen. Mbakwe is one of the best inside players in the Big Ten. He'll likely play in the NBA.

But even Minnesota's backups gave the Hoosiers issues. Elliott Eliason had seven points and five rebounds. He made back-to-back baskets as the Gophers surged into the lead in the second half.

According to the unofficial box score, Minnesota outrebounded Indiana, 38-25. The Gophers had 17 offensive rebounds.

Jordan Hulls led Indiana with 17 points, making four three-point shots in the first half. Victor Oladipo had 16 and Yogi Ferrell added 10. Zeller finished with nine points and seven rebounds. Watford had eight points and two rebounds.

Minnesota made only 4 of 20 three-point shots.

NBA DRAFT CHATTER – As usual, there were about a half-dozen NBA scouts at the game. I spoke with several in the press room before the game.

Here was the consensus: Cody Zeller will be a top five pick in the June draft (despite his struggles with Trevor Mbakwe Tuesday night). Victor Oladipo could be taken anywhere from the top half-dozen through pick 20. Christian Watford will be drafted in the second round.

"There aren't too many teams that will have three guys taken that high," the scout said. "I guess that's why Indiana is good."

STAT LEADERS: Here is where Tom Crean's players rank in among Big Ten leaders:

Scoring – Cody Zeller, third; Victor Oladipo, eighth; Rebounding – Zeller, second; Christian Watford, ninth; field-goal percentage, Oladipo, first; Zeller, second; assists – Yogi Ferrell, third; steals – Oladipo, first; three-point shooting percentage – Watford, first; Jordan Hulls, second.

TUBBY'S CHALLENGE – Five minutes after you arrive on campus you can see the challenge that Tubby Smith faces trying to build a basketball program here in the Land of 10,000 Pro Sports.

The Gophers have a spectacular new on-campus football stadium. Across the streets sits a wonderful on-campus hockey arena. And Williams Arena doesn't much different than it looked the last time I was here, which was 1975.

It's dark. The aisles and corridors are crowded. There aren't enough restroom facilities. Among facilities in the Big Ten, it can't rank any better than 10th – ahead of Northwestern and maybe Penn State.

Factor in the reality that Minnesota is not packed with top college prospects and now you understand why the Gophers have not won an NCAA Tournament game since they lost to Rick Pitino's final University of Kentucky team in the 1997 NCAA Final Four.

UP NEXT – The Hoosiers return for their final two home games – Iowa on Saturday night and then Ohio State for Senior Night on Tuesday. The Hoosiers defeated the Hawkeyes in their Big Ten opener 69-65 on New Year's Eve and beat the Buckeyes in Columbus, 81-68 Feb. 10.

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