Indiana Daily Student

IU men’s basketball making final NCAA Tournament push beating Minnesota 72-67

<p>Sophomore guard Rob Phinisee attempts to shoot a 3-pointer March 4 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Phinisee scored 11 of IU&#x27;s 72 points in the game against Minnesota.</p>

Sophomore guard Rob Phinisee attempts to shoot a 3-pointer March 4 in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Phinisee scored 11 of IU's 72 points in the game against Minnesota.

IU men’s basketball was back inside Assembly Hall on Wednesday night — where it has 15 of its 19 wins — picked up an important win for its postseason hopes with a 72-67 win over Minnesota. 

The Hoosiers are now 19-11 overall and 9-10 in the Big Ten. 

IU had a lead of 10 points in the first half and an 8-0 run to start the second. It was able to jump out to leads, but never able to retain them. 

IU finally was able to maintain some space for itself with just over five minutes to go. Junior guard Al Durham converted an and-1 that brought the Assembly Hall crowd to its feet in its loudest cheer of the night. The basket put IU ahead by eight, and seemed to provide an emotional boost. 

And after letting Minnesota back into the game so many times, IU didn’t again. With a floater from redshirt junior center Joey Brunk — who played his best game since against Michigan State on Jan. 23 — IU was up nine with under two minutes to play. IU remained strong on defense and closed out such a crucial win for the postseason picture. 

Freshman forward Trayce Jackson-Davis led IU with 18 points and he added nine rebounds. Brunk has 12 points and eight rebounds. Durham and sophomore guard Rob Phinisee each had 11 points and junior forward Justin Smith had 10. 

IU shot 51% from the field and out-rebounded Minnesota by one, just as it did the last time these two teams played on Feb. 19. 

It’s March now, and at this time of year the focus is no longer on the Big Ten. IU has no shot at winning the conference. It hasn’t for weeks. 

Now it’s about finishing off a resume. Even as the players and coaches try to focus on each individual game at a time, the NCAA Tournament is the overall focus. 

When IU won on the road against Minnesota on Feb. 19, it seemed to put a stamp on what looked to be a surefire NCAA Tournament resume. 

But after two straight losses on the road — though coming in games where betting odds projected IU to lose — IU’s losses were starting to pile up into a number that thrust it back onto the NCAA Tournament bubble. 

IU came home this week with two straight home games to close the regular season. The Hoosiers needed to win them both to feel good about hearing their name called on Selection Sunday. 

Now, head coach Archie Miller’s team has accomplished the first step. The first NCAA Tournament appearance in Miller’s tenure is just that much closer. 

This win over Minnesota, even as a team with a losing record, is a Quadrant 2 win. That doesn’t secure IU’s resume, but it eliminates what could have been a potential loss. 

IU has one game left in the regular season, at noon Saturday in Assembly Hall against Wisconsin. As the last home game, Saturday will be Senior Day. The game will also have key Big Ten Tournament seeding implications — Wisconsin potentially could clinch a Big Ten regular season championship that day. 

But the NCAA Tournament will again be prevalent on the minds of those in and around IU basketball that day. IU has taken the steps it needs to for now, but there’s only so much room for error. 

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