In what has been a theme throughout this season of rebuilding, the inexperience of Tom Crean’s club shined through down the stretch as Indiana fell 67-63 to Minnesota at Assembly Hall.
The Hoosiers (5-13, 0-6 Big Ten) cut the Minnesota lead to 64-63 with 29 seconds remaining on two free throws by Nick Williams. Indiana immediately fouled Al Nolen, who knocked down two free throws to push the Golden Gopher lead back to three at 66-63.
Crean called for time with 21.8 seconds remaining, but the Hoosiers couldn’t get an open look and ultimately settled for an off-balance 3-point attempt by Devan Dumes that fell short. Minnesota’s Paul Carter grabbed the rebound, was fouled by Verdell Jones and knocked down a free throw to put the game out of reach.
“This is one of the tougher ones to swallow,” Crean said. “They all are. They are miserable for every coach and everybody that is a part of it.”
The loss was the fifth straight at Assembly Hall for Indiana, the longest home losing streak for the Hoosiers since the 1984-1985 season.
Dumes led all scorers with 19 points and was joined in double figures by Malik Story with 14 and Tom Pritchard with 10. Indiana hit 8 of 15 3-pointers, but hit just 11 of 21 free throws with eight misses coming in the second half.
“The numbers we chart in practice would astound you. But it is also an empty Assembly Hall,” Crean said. “It is just part of it. I don’t want to get frustrated with that. We just want to continue to put ourselves in pressure situations in practice. We were shooting 72 percent in the Big Ten going into today’s game.”
Damian Johnson paced Minnesota (17-3, 5-3) with 18 points. Ralph Sampson III added 13 points, eight rebounds and six blocks. The win snapped a two-game skid for the Golden Gophers and moved Tubby Smith to 10-4 all-time against Indiana.
“Every time they go out, they don’t give in, they don’t give up,” Smith said of Indiana. “It’s just a matter of sustaining it and consistency, and that’s what he’s getting from his kids. He’s getting a consistent effort. As he continues to recruit he’s going to have a very good team.”
Up next: Indiana will travel to Evanston on Wednesday for a 8:30 PM EST meeting with Northwestern. That game will be broadcast by the Big Ten Network.
T-shirt promotion and $5 balcony seats a success?: Indiana announced a crowd of 16,539, making Sunday’s game the most attended of the season to date.