The Gophers men’s basketball team is rolling. The latest victory was a 75-74 win over Indiana (15-12, 5-9) Wednesday at Williams Arena. The winning basket came with about three seconds left on the clock and sent the Gophers into a celebration for the fourth game in a row.
That five-game losing streak is long gone in the rearview mirror.
Here are five takeaways from the Indiana game.
1. Akeem Springs was cold, until the winning play. The Gophers were down a point with 17 seconds left. They came down the floor with the ball looking to run that final, game-winning play. It might have been a good time for Gophers fans to hold their collective breath. They’ve seen this movie before; the Gophers have had plenty of close losses with a chance to win it in the closing seconds.
This time, the shot found the hoop. Springs got the ball with 10 seconds left and put up a tough jumper that didn’t fall and bounced around. Freshman Eric Curry was right there to keep it out of the hands of Indiana, allowing Springs to grab the rebound. He drove in and scored off the glass.
Coach Richard Pitino said afterward that they use the term “winning plays.”
“Then Akeem at the end, following his own shot,” Pitino said. “Eric [Curry] keeping it alive, making it a winning play. … That’s what good teams do.”
It’s not doubt Springs has been a vocal and statistical addition to this team, especially since he entered the starting lineup earlier this season (Wednesday was his eighth start.). He’s not just a one trick pony when it comes to shooting either. But his shooting was awfully cold Wednesday. He wasn’t hitting his threes. He only scored four points, going 2-for-13 from the field and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc.
He just had the biggest shot of the night.
2. By the numbers, Gophers reach new territory. The Gophers are 19-7 overall and looking at a 20-plus win season after losing 23 games last year. They’re above .500 in Big Ten play with a 7-6 record. Maybe that doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the last time they had a 7-6 conference record was 2008-09. It’s also been six years since they’re won four straight conference games.
3. Nate Mason leads the way yet again. When you can hit a couple of three-pointers in the first half from way, way beyond the arc, plus one slightly off balance, it’s going to be his kind of night. That was the case for Nate Mason, who scored 30 points (one off his career-high) – 18 in the first half – with three three-pointers. He also went 11-for-12 from the free-throw line, which was a big help down the stretch in the tight second half.
4. Jordan Murphy gets his third double-double in a row. The co-Big Ten Player of the Week didn’t let up with his offensive production. He put up 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for his 17th career double-double. He’s talked about how he really focuses on his rebounding within his game. When that’s going well, everything else seems to fall into place, too.
Now, the three-pointer is not Murphy’s shot. Just look at the obvious statistics: He came into the game 3-for-23 on the season. But in the first half, he found himself wide open with the ball. He waited a beat, but with no defenders challenging, he let the shot go. His fourth three-pointer of the season put the Gophers up 28-26.
5. Gophers didn’t let a first-half deficit spiral on them. They started the game 0-for-7 from the field, starting off cold in the scoring department. Indiana took advantage with a 12-0 run to grab a 10-point lead in the first half. The Gophers didn’t let it get to them. It was simple at first, with Reggie Lynch grabbing a rebound and easy bucket inside to stop the Hoosier momentum. The Gophers ended the half on a 13-3 run, outscoring the Hoosiers 21-7 after getting down by that double-digit deficit.
More in the good-numbers category, this was the 20th game where the Gophers held a lead at the half. Once again for good measure, they only led at the half nine times last season.