With Jordan Murphy muscling his way to 23 points and 11 rebounds and Gabe Kalscheur going 6-for-8 from 3-point range, Minnesota stopped a four-game losing streak with an 84-63 victory over Indiana on Saturday.
Amir Coffey added 18 points for the Gophers (17-9, 7-8), who built a lead as big as 30 points during a smooth second half that had an intrasquad scrimmage vibe as the Hoosiers stumbled to their 10th loss in their last 11 games. The worst 3-point shooting team in the Big Ten, Minnesota made a season-high 12 shots in 22 attempts from long range to post its largest winning margin in 33 Big Ten games since a 89-67 victory over Rutgers on Dec. 3, 2017.
Kalscheur finished with 20 points and teamed with Coffey to stifle Indiana star Romeo Langford to a quiet 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting. Juwan Morgan led the Hoosiers (13-12, 4-10) with 14 points and eight rebounds and Al Durham added 12 points, but they finished a season-worst 2-for-17 from 3-point range.
Coming off a one-point loss at Nebraska three days ago that coach Richard Pitino called the toughest of his six-year tenure at Minnesota in light of two disputed foul calls in the closing seconds, the Gophers badly needed a dominant performance like this to relieve some tension and steer their NCAA Tournament bid back on track. They still have a lot of work to do to get in, but resume-building opportunities remain with three of the conference’s top four teams left on the regular-season schedule.
Murphy, who had 17 points in the first half and posted his 18th double-double of the season, went to work right away on attacking the middle with his powerful and determined back-to-the-basket drives. The Hoosiers piled up the personal fouls, Murphy kept going back to the free-throw line and the Gophers were in control. The 6-foot-7 senior put his exclamation point on the performance with an 180-degree spin move on Justin Smith for an emphatic dunk that gave the Gophers a 61-40 lead.
Indiana redshirt freshman forward Race Thompson returned to action with two points and five rebounds in seven minutes, just his second appearance of the season after sitting out with a concussion. He’s a native of Minnesota, the son of former Gophers football star Darrell Thompson.
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Not only did the Gophers enter the weekend ranked last in the conference in 3-point shooting (31.0), they were 314th in the country out of 353 NCAA Division I teams, ahead of only three major-conference schools: Wake Forest, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech. They gave themselves a rare early boost from behind the arc in whatever-it-takes fashion, making their first four attempts.
Oturu beat the shot clock with an off-balance heave that rimmed out and back in from the right wing in the opening minutes, the first try of the freshman center’s college career. Coffey banked in a 3-pointer a little later, as did Kalscheur for a 21-11 lead that the Gophers were able to keep in double digits for the majority of the remainder of the afternoon.
Indiana: The Hoosiers saw their NCAA Tournament hopes further deflated with this lifeless performance. Their victories over Marquette, Louisville and Michigan State might give them a long-shot chance to get in with a winning streak that takes them into March, but there’s no sign at this point that they’re on the cusp of a surge.
Minnesota: The Gophers finally produced a game with their three best players, Murphy, Coffey and Kalscheur, all in a groove. Coffey had seven assists and only one turnover, and Kalscheur went 7-for-10 from the floor.
Indiana: Hosts No. 12 Purdue on Tuesday night. The Hoosiers lost 70-55 to the rival Boilermakers on the road on Jan. 19.
Minnesota: Stays home to face No. 6 Michigan on Thursday night. The Gophers lost 59-57 on the road to the Wolverines on Jan. 22 on a buzzer-beating shot.