BLOOMINGTON – When it came down to choosing a college, Verdell Jones III selected Indiana over Minnesota.
Sunday, he showed the Gophers what they were missing.
Jones scored a career-high 24 points, including the go-ahead basket with 32.8 seconds left in overtime, to lift IU to an 81-78 victory in front of 17,017 fans, some of whom rushed onto the court after the win.
We just had a matchup, and coach did a good job calling the play up for me, Jones said of the go-ahead basket. I dont think it was a great shot personally. I think I kind of forced it, but it went in. I thought I was going to get the foul, I didnt know it was going to go in. Thankfully, it did.
Jones scored seven points in overtime as IU (8-9, 2-3 Big Ten) fought back from down five in the extra period to end a three-game losing streak.
He stayed fearless, IU coach Tom Crean said. Thats exactly what you have to be when you are making that transition in being a very good player, which hes doing.
And I thought he did it in the context of what needed to happen.
For the second time in conference play this season, the Hoosiers saw a double-digit lead slip away. Minnesota (12-6, 3-3) rallied from 15 down to force overtime. But unlike the Jan. 9 game against Illinois, where the Illini fought back from 15 points to win 66-60, IU had enough left to make a charge of its own.
You always believe you can come back and we did. But (the Hoosiers) proved (Sunday) that they have matured, Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. Indiana has learned their lesson and they responded in the right way.
Minnesotas Devoe Joseph made a jumper with nine seconds to tie the game at 70. Indianas Christian Watford missed an open jumper in the final seconds, sending the game to overtime. Joseph made another three-pointer 31 seconds into overtime to give the Gophers their first lead. Joseph finished with a team-high 19 points.
Minnesota led 78-73 with 2:24 remaining. But Indiana didnt panic.
At that point, it was staying calm, staying focused and executing what we need to do to bring us back, IU freshman forward Bobby Capobianco said.
That meant get the ball in Jones hands. First, the sophomore guard made two free throws. The next time down the court, he made a jumper to pull IU within 78-77 with 1:15. He gave the Hoosiers the lead with a jumper from about 14 feet while getting fouled with 32.8 seconds to go.
Jones missed the free throw, giving Minnesota a chance to win on the final shot. The Gophers cleared room for Joseph, but he missed a jumper over Jeremiah Rivers. Watford grabbed the rebound, one of IUs 43. Minnesota had 31 rebounds.
Watford made two free throws with 4 seconds left to seal the victory.
Im very proud of our effort, Crean said. We could have folded up tents and we didnt.