Johnson’s career day lifts Indiana past Minnesota 75-71
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — In a battle of shorthanded teams, Indiana found a way to thrive without its missing pieces, while Minnesota found out the rest of its season could be an uphill battle.
Robert Johnson scored a career-high 28 points, while Justin Smith and Juwan Morgan each added 20 as Indiana defeated Minnesota 75-71 on Saturday.
Nate Mason led Minnesota with 22 points and nine assists, while Dupree McBrayer and Jordan Murphy each scored 18. Murphy grabbed 10 rebounds, extending the nation’s longest double-double streak to 17 games.
Indiana (9-7, 2-2 Big Ten) was playing without one starter and found out just before the game that it would be missing another key rotation player. Sophomore post De’Ron Davis is out indefinitely after he suffered a lower-leg injury in practice on Thursday. Senior sixth man Collin Hartman went through warmups but was held out of the game due to a sore right shoulder.
But other players stepped up, including Johnson, a senior guard who averages 12.7 points per game this year. He hit 10 of 21 shots, including three 3-pointers, while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out a season-high seven assists. Smith hit 7 of 10 shots from the floor, and Morgan hit three 3-pointers and had a game-high 12 rebounds.
“It was a next-man-up mentality when De’Ron went down, and then we saw Collin go down,” Morgan said. “The show doesn’t stop because we’re missing a few actors.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota (13-4, 2-2) played without its third- and fourth-leading scorers. Senior center Reggie Lynch, the 2017 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, was suspended on Friday after allegations of sexual misconduct were made public. And sophomore guard Amir Coffey, who plays a team-leading 31.4 minutes per game, sat out with a shoulder injury he suffered in Wednesday’s victory over Illinois.
The Gophers struggled inside without Lynch, who ranks third in the nation in blocked shots. Indiana grabbed 17 offensive rebounds, the most for any Minnesota opponent this season. And Coffey’s absence was noted as the Gophers shot 33 percent from the floor in the first half.
Neither player is likely to return soon. Lynch has appealed his suspension from the university, but he is expected to be banned from playing while the appeal process plays out. And Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said he didn’t think Coffey would return “anytime soon” after being diagnosed with a HAGL lesion, which is an injury to a shoulder ligament.
“Adversity has hit right now and we’ve got to get these guys to continue to believe in each other,” Pitino said. “I loved their effort today. I thought they really played hard. It’s just at the end of the day, Indiana made a few more plays than we did.”
Minnesota had a chance to tie the game in the final 20 seconds, but Mason and Murphy each missed 3-pointers before Johnson controlled the rebound, drew a foul and hit a free throw on the other end to seal the victory for Indiana.
Minnesota raced out to a 48-40 early in the second half lead on the strength of nine quick points by McBrayer, but Johnson matched him with nine points in a 15-3 run that put Indiana back up by four.
The Gophers bounced back, with Mason hitting a jump shot and a 3-pointer to key a 14-5 run that put Minnesota up 67-62 with just under five minutes to play. But two 3-point plays by Johnson brought the Hoosiers back and set up a nip-and-tuck final stretch.
After being ranked as high as No. 12 in early December, the Gophers are now staring at the possibility of a lost season. A team that is not known for its depth has to find a way to replace 40 percent of its starting lineup.
“We’re missing a lot of scoring,” McBrayer said. “We’ve just got to be ready, be in shape to play long minutes and then we just have to rely on other guys to step up.”
Murphy came within an eyelash of losing his double-double streak. He played only 10 minutes in the first half due to foul trouble and had just one rebound at halftime. He had a productive second half but was stuck on nine boards when Johnson went to the line to shoot a one-and-one with 8 seconds to play. He hit the first shot but missed the second, and Murphy corralled the rebound for his 10th of the game.
Murphy tied the NCAA record for most double-doubles to open a season, which was set by Tim Duncan of Wake Forest in 1996-97.
Indiana: Morgan keeps adding elements to his game. Going into the game, the junior forward was just 2 for 17 on 3-point attempts this season, but he hit his first three shots from beyond the arc against the Gophers.
Minnesota: Missed free throws down the stretch killed the Gophers. In the final three minutes, Mason and McBrayer each missed one of two free throws, and Murphy missed the front end of a one-and-one with 25 seconds left and Minnesota trailing by just one.
Indiana: Hosts Penn State on Tuesday.
Minnesota: At Northwestern on Wednesday.