Well that first half was difficult to watch. At the very least I was hoping for the Gophers to be competitive against Indiana and keep it close in order to justify their top 10 ranking. Sort of like if Mississippi or Miami was suddenly ranked in the top 10 I'd be quite skeptical and expect them to not be able to hang with the truly elite teams, I am guessing many felt the same way about the Gophers so the first half was no fun at all.
At times it seemed like a different team out there than I was used to seeing - taking bad and contested shots, turning the ball over more than usual, and a complete inability to stop dribble penetration which gave Indiana open shot after open shot. It was frustrating. However the more I watched the more I realized the Gophers weren't really playing poorly, Indiana was just playing nearly perfectly. The poor shot selection was a function of great Hoosier defense, not the Gophers suddenly becoming Illinois, and the majority of the turnovers were Indiana making a play rather than Minnesota just giving it away. And as far as the "poor" Minnesota defense? Well it turns out Indiana is pretty damn good.
The second half, however, showcased just how good the Gophers can be. Maybe they weren't quite ready to play a team as good as Indiana. Maybe the weren't quite ready for a hostile and loud crowd. Maybe they were a little too amped up (Dre Hollins especially). Whatever the reason for not being able to hang with the Hoosiers in the first half (and maybe it was just Indiana being Indiana) the Gophers didn't just go through the motions in the second half, they came out fired up and ready to prove they belonged on the same court and they most certainly did. If not for a heartbreaking Jordan Hulls rebound off his own missed free throw we might be talking about a miracle win - it was that close.
What that second half showed me is that this team is, without question, a top 10 team. They battled back and thoroughly outplayed the Hoosiers in the second half, and displayed the heart and "never give up"-ness that was a hallmark of the 1997 team. If Indiana doesn't get several questionable calls and doesn't shoot 40 free throws to just 15 for the Gophers, maybe it never even comes down to one rebound. In any case this team is for real, my friends. Michigan comes to down Thursday. Can't wait.