MINNEAPOLIS — Akeem Springs missed. Then he didn’t.
Springs’ forced 3-point attempt from the corner banked off the iron in the waning seconds, then caromed off the hands of a leaping Robert Johnson and back into his grasp.
Given a second chance, Springs did what he couldn’t do the first time. He laid the ball into the basket with 3.2 seconds remaining in regulation, sealing a 75-74 win over Indiana before an announced crowd of 11,658 at Williams Arena.
On the other end, consider it more heartbreak and frustration for the Hoosiers (15-12, 5-9), who dropped their fourth consecutive game and sixth in their last seven.
After James Blackmon’s last-second 3-point attempt missed the mark, and he finished his trot through the postgame handshake line, the junior guard held his head in his hands before assistant coach Rob Judson walked over and threw an arm around his shoulder as the two walked downstairs to the visitor’s locker room.
On a night when Indiana was searching for a palatable response to Sunday’s flat performance against Michigan, the Hoosiers fell maddeningly short — yet again.
“That’s what makes it even tougher,” said Blackmon, who led IU with 22 points. “You just have to have a short memory.”
That may as well serve as IU’s mantra down the stretch, as a short-handed, banged up and error-prone team can’t make enough plays to close games late. Three of the past four losses have been decided by no more than two possessions.
“I am so proud of their effort,” IU coach Tom Crean said. “I know every day what we’re missing. I know every day how far away some of the guys we’re not missing are, in the case of James and Juwan (Morgan). … Our guys came to fight tonight. There’s no doubt about it. Minnesota made one more play. They just made one more play. It was a hard fought game.”
Part of Wednesday’s battle was waged against foul trouble and missed shots. Both De’Ron Davis and Josh Newkirk fouled out, while the team shot 34 percent from the field and 26 percent from 3-point range. Robert Johnson, who came off the bench for the second time this season, went 0-for-6 and finished scoreless.
Crean juggled his lineup, starting Davis alongside Thomas Bryant to help mitigate some of Minnesota’s size and find different matchups off the break. Devonte Green started in place of Johnson.
After scoring the game’s first points on a post-up, Davis didn’t give Indiana much until the final minutes. The 6-foot-10 freshman was in foul trouble all night, and by the time he picked up his fourth personal at the 16:58 mark of the second half he had more fouls than minutes played (three).
“For him to get 10 points in nine minutes and never really get into the flow except for a couple minutes (was still impressive),” Crean said.
Bryant, too, was uneven in the frontcourt. Though he grabbed six rebounds through his first 16 minutes, Bryant didn’t score his first basket until the 9:19 mark of the second half. He finished 3-for-14 from the field for eight points.
Bryant and Davis did combine for the game’s first basket, a post feed that started a 6-0 Hoosier scoring spurt to begin the game. Then, the Hoosiers added their next four points in a quick — and eventful — end-to-end swing.
After missing a layup, Josh Newkirk hustled back and forced a turnover on the other end. That led to an easy layup for Blackmon and a technical foul called against Minnesota coach Richard Pitino. The sequence delivered IU the early momentum jolt it needed, evident by Bryant slapping the floor and hollering to Blackmon on the other end of the floor. Blackmon made both free throws afforded by the tech.
Indiana got sloppy from there, as Minnesota (19-7, 7-6) used an 8-0 to take its first lead, 10-8, nearing the second media timeout. The Hoosiers also lost Davis for the remainder of the half when he picked up his third foul with 9:23 remaining in the half — less than a minute after checking back in after a prolonged two-foul absence.
The teams traded runs to close the half. Indiana opened its largest lead of the game, 22-12, on a 12-0 run at the 7:24 mark of the first half. Minnesota answered with a 13-3 run during the final three minutes of the period, giving the Gophers a 33-29 advantage at the intermission.
Minnesota came out and extended its lead to as many as nine points early in the second half, before a 9-0 Indiana run — highlighted by six quick points by Juwan Morgan — put the Hoosiers back in front, 51-49 with 10 minutes to play.
Back and forth. Back and forth. The game saw four ties and six lead changes in the second half.
Blackmon scored seven points in a four-minute stretch to help IU keep a slight advantage while the Gophers went three minutes without a field goal. Davis also emerged as an important option late in regulation, adding five late points — fouling out Minnesota big man Reggie Lynch in the process.
But Davis, too, eventually fouled out with a minute left, sending Jordan Murphy to the line in the double bonus. Murphy made both shots, putting the Gophers ahead by one.
Trading baskets and free throws down the stretch, Indiana held a 74-73 lead with 17 seconds remaining after a pair of free throws from Bryant.
Then came Springs, the miss and the second-chance that sealed the night.
“When I got the ball, I’m like, ‘Where’s Nate (Mason),” Springs said. “I couldn’t find him so I took a shot. I’m liked, ‘God, I missed!’ I chased it down (and) I don’t know how I finished.”
Neither did the Hoosiers.