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Hoffarber's miracle shot sinks Indiana

Mar 15, 2008 - 7:05 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Blake Hoffarber wrapped up an surprising semifinal matchup at the Big Ten tournament with an unlikely shot.

Hoffarber sank a 16-foot shot as time expired to lift Minnesota to a thrilling 59-58 victory over No. 20 Indiana in the tourney quarterfinals on Friday.

It was one of just two baskets in the game for the freshman, who propelled the sixth-seeded Golden Gophers into a semifinal showdown Saturday with 10th seed Illinois, which upset No. 16 Purdue earlier.

"I have a lot of faith in these young men and the way they played, and we're just grateful to get the win," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.

The Fighting Illini became the first 10th seed to reach the semis in the 11-year history of the tournament.

In a play very similar to Christian Laettner's memorable shot that lifted Duke over Kentucky in the regional finals of the 1992 NCAA Tournament, Hoffarber fought off two defenders to grab a long heave from the baseline by Travis Busch just past the foul line, spun to his left and sank the jumper as the buzzer sounded.

It was the second dramatic shot in the young career for Hoffarber, who won an ESPY award as a high school player when he sank a game-winning shot from his backside.

Despite his flair for the dramatic, Hoffarber was not the player that Smith designed the final play for.

"I was actually supposed to be a decoy," Hoffarber said when asked to describe the final sequence. "I was running off two screens to just be kind of a decoy. But, I saw the ball just going to the middle so I went up and grabbed it and just turned and tried to get it off on time, and I guess it went off in time."

Similar to Hoffarber, Busch made an adjustment on the fly when tossing the inbounds pass, moving to his right instead of the other way around.

"I was supposed to go left, come back to right," Busch said. "But I saw Blake was flashing across the middle and I just chucked it to his general direction and he caught it. As I was running down the court, I was thinking he could make this."

Hoffarber celebrated with his teammates after the improbable shot, while the Indiana players stood around stunned.

"To tell you the truth, I just remember it sailing over my head," Indiana forward D.J. White said. "I was guarding (Dan) Coleman and he was kind of above the 3-point line and it went over my head. I turned around and the shot was going in. That's all I remember about the play."

Behind the dramatic win, Minnesota advanced to the semifinals for the third time. It has never made it to the championship game.

The 6-4 guard finished with five points and Damian Johnson scored 17 for Minnesota (20-12), which had its back against the wall struggling to rebound.

Holding a 57-52 lead with 2:06 remaining, the Golden Gophers saw the Hoosiers score the next six points, pulling even with 3.1 seconds left on D.J. White's putback off a missed free throw by freshman sensation Eric Gordon.

Gordon, an 85 percent free throw shooter, was instructed to miss that second attempt.

"Yes, people on the team told me to miss and I understand that. I know the only player that would really get it was D.J. I tried to hit it softly around the rim, and I knew he caught it and then got the 'and one'."

White was fouled on the play, but missed the ensuing free throw. Because Indiana did not have its players line up, the senior forward was able to track down the rebound and was then fouled by Lawrence McKenzie.

White, who finished 11-of-17 from the line en route to 23 points, hit the front end of the rim on the first before converting the second, giving the Hoosiers a 58-57 lead with 1.5 ticks left.

McKenzie finished with 15 points for Minnesota, which shot 34 percent (19-of-56) from the field.

White also grabbed 13 rebounds and Gordon scored 16 points for Indiana (25-7), which had won both meetings against Minnesota in the regular season.