It was a time for celebration Tuesday night as the crowd rushed the court in Minnesota. Minnesota has always played great at home, especially when they are the underdog trying to climb their way into the NCAAB tourney. March is just around the corner and the Gophers hung on to beat the No. 1 team in the nation, the Indiana Hoosiers.
Being number one has been a revolving door this season. Teams have made it there and only stayed there a few days. Then they get knocked off. This is the seventh time the top ranked team in the Associated Press poll has lost a game this season. For Indiana, this is the third time they lost their status as the number one team in the nation.
I believe no one was expecting the Hoosiers to lose to this Gopher team that have been very inconsistent all season. The Gophers, in the second half, proved everyone wrong with their aggressive defense and by executing the plays down the stretch.
“Tonight the team played more efficient, more effective, focused, committed and the guys played as one unit tonight. That was huge for us, ” coach Tubby Smith said. The Gophers took care of the ball, which they haven’t done in a long time.
The main driving force for the Gophers was Trevor Mbakwe, who played with passion and took the Gophers on his back to a victory. Mbakwe played with authority and at times took control of the game. He scored 21 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to take down the Hoosiers in front of the home crowd. He got help from his teammates, especially from Andre Hollins, who added 16 points and from Joe Coleman, who had a great break away dunk.
They crashed the boards and out rebounded the Hoosiers by a crazy 44-30 edge. This game solidified their slipping NCAA tournament case. They looked a lot better than they have all season as they have struggled in the second half.
As for Indiana, the Gophers kept their best player, Cody Zeller, in check. Zeller was held to nine points and even lost the ball four times. The Hoosiers cut the deficit to 76-73 with 4.2 seconds left, but a free throw from Andre Hollins put the nail in the coffin and the crowd on the court.
This was the first time Minnesota beat a No. 1 team in 24 years. This one felt great and will help their chances as they move on in March. Look for them to get that golden ticket and march their way into the tourney.