Shorthanded Gophers fight en masse but fall 61-57 to Indiana

Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson allowed himself to look ahead to next season when asked a few basketball philosophy questions on Tuesday.

“Hopefully next year will be the year where (we) are able to have the 13 full scholarship bodies,” Johnson said in his pregame news conference. “We just haven’t had that in two years.”

With two more players unavailable Wednesday, the Gophers had roughly half that roster max against Indiana at Williams Arena. Minnesota, an 11-point underdog, still came en masse but fell 61-57 to the Hoosiers.

With preexisting season-ending injuries to forwards Isaiah Ihnen and Parker Fox, Minnesota went down to seven scholarship players against the Hoosiers. Gophers’ leading scorer Dawson Garcia and top freshman Pharrel Payne were ruled out Wednesday afternoon, a week after Braeden Carrington went down a stress reaction in his leg.

That number diminished to five when with Josh Ola-Joseph dealt with a calf injury in the second half and former walk-on Will Ramberg not called on to come off the bench.

As if what plagued Minnesota could spread, Hoosiers head coach Mike Woodson was out with COVID-19, and associate head coach Yasir Rosemond took over.

Indiana star forward Trayce Jackson-Davis did play Wednesday, and the reigning Big Ten Player of the Week inflicted pain on the Gophers.

His putback layup on Race Thompson’s missed free throw with 43 seconds left gave Indiana a a 59-57 lead. Jackson-Davis finished with 25 points and 20 rebounds.

The Gophers started the game in a zone defense and mixed up the types of zones. The wrinkle threw off the Hoosiers; they had five turnovers in the opening eight minutes; and it helped Minnesota take a 13-12 lead.

Minnesota (7-12, 1-8 Big Ten)  led for the bulk of the first half, but Indiana (14-6, 5-4) went on a  15-6 run gave them a 33-30 lead at the half.

In the second half, Minnesota went on a 7-0 run to tie the game 47-47 with 10 minutes left.

Jamison Battle led Minnesota with 20 points, including four 3-ppinters.

The U relied heavily on five players, with each on the court for at least 15 minutes, with Battle scoring seven points in all 20 minutes. Minnesota could ill-afford even one more injury, and Josh Ola-Joseph needed care on his left calf at the end of the break.

Race Thompson picked up two fouls in the opening six minutes and the Armstrong High School alum sat for the final 14 minutes.

Garcia’s absence could be predicted after he suffered a bone bruise in his foot with a bone bruise in his foot 60-56 loss to Michigan on Sunday. Payne’s unavailability, due to concussion protocol, was a surprise.

Treyton Thompson started his first game since before Big Ten play began in December. He played 37 minutes until fouling out and Ola-Joseph was forced to return.

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