BOZICH | Indiana beats Pitino (Richard), Minnesota with Pitino (Rick) watching
Indiana rallied from a nine-point deficit to beat Richard Pitino and Minnesota -- with Louisville coach Rick Pitino watching in Minneapolis.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Every team takes road losses in conference play. Ask Kansas, Duke, Miami and the other teams that lost on the road this week.
So every road win sparkles as if came from Tiffany’s, even if there were moments when it looked like it came from a flea market.
Indiana’s 70-63 road win against Minnesota Saturday afternoon in Williams Arena was difficult, uphill and a bit ugly at times.
But in the end the defense-first Hoosiers overcame a nine-point deficit as well as a differential of 18 free throw attempts to defeat Richard Pitino’s slumping Gophers – with Rick Pitino and several friends from Louisville in the stands watching in Minneapolis. Rick Pitino talked to the Minnesota players prior to the game.
Mark the victory down as Indiana’s fifth in five Big Ten games as well as IU's 10th in a row overall. It’s the longest winning streak by any team in a Power Five conference. IU has won three times on the road in league play this season.
The victory made Indiana the first 5-0 team in the Big Ten and upgraded IU’s overall record to 15-3. The Hoosiers are positioned to return to the Top 25 when the next Associated Press Top 25 poll is released Monday. They ranked 27th in the current AP poll and 25th in the coaches’ poll. After struggling defensively in non-league play, the Hoosiers have been the Big Ten's most efficient defensive team in conference play.
Minnesota (6-12) has lost seven straight -- and 10 of its last 11.
"We're really proud of this win because we had to earn it," IU coach Tom Crean said. "We knew that we would have to here. I don't get caught up in people's records, as much as you look at what they're capable of. You look at their potential and they have that. Richard [Pitino] is an excellent coach. There's no question about that."
"Give them credit, they are a dynamic offensive team," Richard Pitino said.
Yogi Ferrell led the Hoosiers with 20 points even though he needed 17 field goal attempts. Credit Ferrell with seven assists, which moved him into second place behind Michael Lewis on the school’s all-time list in that category. Ferrell moved past Quinn Buckner, a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame, Saturday. Ferrell has 544, one behind Lewis. He should pass him Tuesday night.
"He's played so much basketball," Crean said. "He's one assist away from being tied in the league and being the all time record. He makes great passes. His decision making is good. I'm always saying he's a great defender. He's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's got a lot of confidence in the team, because the team has a lot of confidence in him."
This was the first game when the Hoosiers looked as if they missed James Blackmon Jr. because offense did not come easy for Tom Crean’s team.
They shot only 41.3 percent and barely averaged a point per possession (1.014). Indiana made 10 free throws, but only shot a dozen. That was a statistic to remember because Minnesota shot 30 free throws, making 19. IU made only eight of 25 shots from distance.
The game was a struggle from the first possession for the Hoosiers. Minnesota attacked the basket. Indiana did not get any points from its starting guards (Ferrell and Robert Johnson) in the first 8 ½ minutes. IU’s issue with turnovers returned. The Hoosiers turned the ball over 10 times in the first 20 minutes.
Nick Zeisloft made only four of 25 three-point shots in his first four Big Ten games. He also missed his first shot from distance at Williams Arena.
Then Zeisloft made one. That’s all he needed. He made another. And another. And another. Four straight. The Hoosiers needed all 12 of those points to rally and tie the game at 34 at halftime.
Indiana played with more resolve and energy in the second half. They did not commit a turnover in the final 16 minutes. Zeisloft added another three to finish with 15 points. Max Bielfeldt and Thomas Bryant also scored 10. Freshman OG Anunoby continued his stretch of solid defensive play, contributing a pair of steals, including one that he turned into a breakaway dunk.
After the game Richard Pitino joked about the topic of his father's pre-game speech. Said Richard Pitino, "He was the one who talked to them about free throw shooting,"
Indiana returns home for its next two games. Illinois visits Assembly Hall Tuesday night before Northwestern visits Saturday. The Hoosiers do not play any of the top four contenders in the Big Ten – Iowa, Michigan State, Purdue or Maryland – until Feb. 11.
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