for this game

Minnesota hangs on to edge upset-minded Indiana

Jan 25, 2009 - 9:53 PM BLOOMINGTON, Indiana (Ticker) -- After battling upset-minded Indiana for 40 minutes, Minnesota breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Damian Johnson scored 18 points and Ralph Sampson III added 13 Sunday as the 20th-ranked Golden Gophers barely escaped Assembly Hall with a 67-63 victory over the Hoosiers.

"It was huge," Golden Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. "We want to stay on pace and keep our eye on the goal, and compete for a Big Ten (title) and stay in the hunt. You have to find ways to win. And certainly none was bigger than the game today."

Minnesota (17-3, 5-3 Big Ten) snapped a two-game losing streak, but couldn't shake the freshmen-laden Hoosiers, who had a chance to tie in the final seconds.

Consecutive layups by Johnson and Sampson staked the Golden Gophers to a 64-59 lead with 1:54 remaining.

Spurred on by a sellout crowd that has continued to support a struggling team, Indiana had a chance to tie in the final seconds. But Devon Dumas, who paced the Hoosiers with 19 points, missed a 3-pointer off the front of the rim with three seconds remaining.

Minnesota's Paul Carter grabbed the rebound and hit 1-of-2 free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining to clinch the victory.

"For Indiana, (coach) Tom (Crean) has done a fantastic job," Smith added. "I thought our kids rose to the challenge today, made some big stops when they had to."

The loss kept Indiana (5-13, 0-5) winless in the Big Ten and saddled the young Hoosiers with their ninth straight defeat.

"Greatest crowd we had thus far," Crean said. "That is why it is a disappointing loss. We want these players to experience and see some positive results for how hard they work. Because I promise you that they work. Our fans are so great."

Still, the Hoosiers stayed close throughout, trailing by no more than seven points at any point of the second half.

In the first half, the Hoosiers made five consecutive 3-pointers during one stretch, jumping out to leads of 19-11 and 23-15.

After the Golden Gophers erased the deficit, Indiana got a boost from a six-point swing in the final minute of the first half as Minnesota's Blake Hoffarber missed all three free throws after getting fouled while attempting a 3-pointer.

Verdell Jones then drilled a 3-pointer from just beyond midcourt at the buzzer, pulling the Hoosiers within 31-30 at the half. Crean high-fived fans as he jogged off the court.

Minnesota started with a quick burst following the intermission, opening a 38-32 lead on Al Nolen's steal and breakaway dunk just 59 seconds into the second half.

"Today we saw a sense of urgency," said Smith, whose team won in Bloomington for the first time since 2004. "That is the bottom line. We want guys to understand it means a great deal to play here, to compete here."

The Golden Gophers increased their advantage to 42-35 on Johnson's dunk with 17:11 to play, but the Hoosiers withstood Minnesota's knockout attempt.

After Dumas' 3-pointer pulled Indiana within 51-50, the Hoosiers had a chance to take the lead, but Broderick Lewis missed a pair from the line with 9:06 to go.

Indiana only shot 52 percent from the line (11-of-21), including 7-of-15 in the second half, and got into foul trouble down the stretch. Minnesota was in the bonus just four minutes into the second half.

"There is no question we are participating in our own situation here with missed foul shots and giving up offensive rebound and letting people cut in front of us late in the game," Crean added. "To me, the belief that we can win, especially when you are 0-5, that is pretty important. And we have to continue to build on that."

Still, the Hoosiers withstood Minnesota's knockout attempt, answering each time it looked as though the Golden Gophers were ready to take control.

Malik Story scored 14 points for Indiana, including a jumper that pulled the Hoosiers within 60-59 with 3:54 to play.

Nolen hit two from the line to make it 66-63 with 29 seconds to play, forcing Indiana to go for a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.