Blake Hoffarber hauled in a length-of-the-floor pass from Travis Busch with 1.5 seconds left, spun away from a defender and connected on a left-handed shot from the elbow at the buzzer to lift Minnesota to a thrilling 59-58 victory over No. 22 Indiana in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday night at sold out Conseco Fieldhouse.
The game-winning shot sent Minnesota (20-12) into the Big Ten semifinals for just the third time in the 11-year history of the league tournament and capped a wild finish that saw Indiana overcome a 57-55 deficit in the final four seconds and place the Golden Gophers on the brink of elimination.
With Minnesota clinging to a two-point edge and 10 seconds remaining in the game, Indiana’s Eric Gordon drove the length of the floor and was fouled with 3.4 seconds to go. With a chance to tie the game, Gordon, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, missed the first of two free throws then purposely missed the second.
Hoosiers forward D.J. White tipped in a missed free throw in the ensuing may lay and drew a foul with 3.1 seconds left to tie the score at 57-57. White was also unable to connect from the stripe, but drew another foul in a mad scramble for the rebound and made one free throw to give Indiana a 58-57 lead with 1.5 seconds left to set the stage for Hoffarber’s heroic buzzer-beater.
The victory improved Minnesota to 2-0 against the Hoosiers in the Big Ten Tournament and snapped a three-game skid vs. Indiana (25-7), which swept the season series from the Gophers in a pair of close games.
Damian Johnson scored 17 points and Lawrence McKenzie added 15 to lead Minnesota on the score sheet. But all nine Gophers who got into the game contributed at least two points. Minnesota also outrebounded Indiana 42-36 and was a nearly-perfect 15-for-16 at the free-throw line.
White, the Big Ten’s Player of the Year, finished with 23 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to lead the Hoosiers.
It would have been difficult to forecast the frantic finish in the early going, however, as Minnesota raced out to a big first half lead. The Gophers took control of the game early, combining timely shooting with a stingy defense that held the Hoosiers to just 1-of-10 from the field to start the game.
Johnson poured in seven quick points and McKenzie hit eight in a row as the Gophers scored 19 of the games first 24 points.
A 3-pointer by Armon Bassett briefly stemmed the tide for Indiana, before Hoffarber canned a trey and Westbrook sake a pair of free throws to make it 24-8 Gophers midway through the first half.
But Indiana responded and methodically chipped away at Minnesota’s 16 points lead. The Hoosiers outscored Minnesota 17-4 over the next eight minutes, cutting the Gophers’ lead to just 28-23.
Six straight free throws by Minnesota boosted the Gophers’ advantage back to nine points. But White connected on a jumper to provide the final points of the half, sending the teams to the locker rooms with Minnesota up 34-27.
Indiana continued to roll early in the second half, getting seven straight points from White to tie the game at 34-34 with 15:59 remaining.
Six ties and five lead changes followed over the next 10 minutes until a bucket by Dan Coleman, who was saddled with foul trouble for most of the contest, put the Gophers on top 50-48 with 4:51 showing on the clock.
Minnesota’s lead would reach as many as five three more times over the next 2:30 before a layup by the Hoosiers’ Jordan Crawford started Indiana’s late run.
Gordon made 1-of-2 at the line with 44 seconds to go to make it a two-point game and set in motion the thrilling final seconds.
Minnesota’s semifinal match up with Illinois will tip at 4 p.m. (EDT)/3 p.m. (CDT) and will be televised nationally by CBS.