Kyndell Harkness | Minneapolis Star Tribune
Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe, left, battles Indiana’s Derek Elston for a rebound in the first half of Tuesday’s game in Minneapolis.
MINNEAPOLIS — If the Minnesota Gophers couldn’t find motivation for this one, when could they?
Tuesday night, they spoke loudly — coming out with a sense of urgency that had been missing for most of the month of February.
Their play screamed that they will not go quietly into the night.
After consecutive blowout losses, the suddenly fiery Gophers regrouped in a huge way. With Indiana’s Cody Zeller struggling, Trevor Mbakwe picked up all the loose ends, exploding for 21 points and 12 rebounds and helping to hold off a late surge by Indiana as the Gophers (19-9, 7-8 in the Big Ten) trumped No. 1 Indiana, 77-73, as a full Williams Arena pulsated with 14,625 fans who stormed the court in celebration.
Christian Watford hit consecutive 3-pointers to pull the Hoosiers (24-4, 12-3) within four points with 43 seconds left. Then Jordan Hulls hit another to narrow the lead to three with 5 second to go, but that was as close as Indiana got. The Gophers made sure of that. Andre Hollins hit one of two free throws with three seconds left to seal the victory.
Minnesota outrebounded and outbullied Indiana in the paint, fighting for the victory despite shooting just 4-for-20 from 3-point range and getting only 15 combined points from Rodney Williams and Joe Coleman.
The Gophers trailed by a single point, 59-58, after Zeller bounced back from a two-point first half and converted a three-point play with 4:39 remaining.
But Minnesota wouldn’t have their prize stolen away. The Gophers went on a 10-2 run to go up 68-61 with 2:35 to go.
“It was more of a pride thing, because we knew that the last time we played them, we just gave them the game,” Andre Hollins said, noting the first meeting between the two teams this year, when Minnesota fell behind big, only to make a late surge that Indiana held off for the win. “It’s a certain toughness you have to have when you play at home — it’s a little moxie you have to have because it’s your place.”
The Gophers had plenty of fire from the start, and unlike in recent games, kept it up despite Mbakwe’s exiting after getting two fouls with four minutes left in the game.
Tennessee 64, (8) Florida 58
Knoxville, Tenn. — Fresh off the longest game in school history, the Tennessee Volunteers showed no signs of heavy legs in their 64-58 victory over the eighth-ranked Florida Gators on Tuesday. Jordan McRae had 27 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks for the Volunteers (17-10, 9-6 SEC), who needed four overtimes on Saturday to beat Texas A&M. Jarnell Stokes added eight points and 14 boards for the Tennessee, which has won six in a row overall. Trae Golden also had eight points. Mike Rosario and Patric Young ended with 16 and 15 points, respectively, for the Gators (22-5, 12-3), who have lost two of three to see their lead in the SEC shrink to one game over Alabama. Tennessee has won three straight games against Florida to extend its lead in the all-time series to 72-52. The Vols also have a convincing advantage over the Gators in Knoxville (44-15).
(17) Wisconsin 77, Nebraska 46
Madison, Wis. — Wisconsin is hitting its stride at the right time and defeating the competition in dominating fashion. Sam Dekker went 4- for-5 from 3-point range en route to 19 points as the No. 17 Badgers blew out their third straight opponent by defeating Nebraska, 77-46, on Tuesday at Kohl Center. For the first time since the 1911-12 season, the Badgers (20-8, 11-4 Big Ten) have won three conference games in a row by at least 20 points. Ryan Evans donated 14 points and seven boards and Ben Brust contributed 13 points to Wisconsin’s sixth win in seven games. Nebraska (13-15, 4-11) shot a brutal 32.8 percent from the field and dropped its fifth contest in seven games. Dylan Talley finished with 21 points and eight rebounds to lead the Cornhuskers.
Xavier 64, (19) Memphis 62
Cincinnati, Ohio — Travis Taylor tallied a game-high 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds on Tuesday to help Xavier end No. 19 Memphis’ 18-game winning streak with a 64-62 triumph at the Cintas Center. Isaiah Philmore followed with 15 points and Semaj Christon chipped in 13 points for the Musketeers (16-11, 8-5 A-10), who have won two of their last three games. Geron Johnson led Memphis (24-4, 13-0 C-USA) with 14 points and seven boards, while Joe Jackson added 11 points for the Tigers, who hadn’t lost since an 87-78 setback against then-No. 6 Louisville on Dec. 15.