Joe Coleman's fast-break dunk with 2:35 left lifted Minnesota to a 68-61 edge, enough of a cushion to withstand a couple of 3-pointers by Christian Watford and one by Hulls in the closing minutes.
Mbakwe, who played for Indiana coach Tom Crean when they were at Marquette in 2007-08, has had some of his better games against the Hoosiers. This was his best. He gave the Gophers and their home crowd a double-shot of energy early with 10 points in the first 6½ minutes, plus a jarring block of Zeller's inside shot that knocked the 7-footer to the court. Coach Tubby Smith took Mbakwe out for a breather, though, and the Hoosiers went on a 10-0 run capped by another behind-the-arc swish from Hulls.
Zeller, Indiana's leading scorer and the second-best shooter in the Big Ten behind Oladipo, was 0 for 4 from the field in the first half with two turnovers, two fouls and two points. Mbakwe picked up his second foul when Oladipo drew contact with 4:02 left before the break and sat until the buzzer. The Gophers scored only three points in the last 7 minutes of the half.
The Hoosiers started the week with a two-game lead in the loss column over Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin, poised for their first outright Big Ten regular season championship since going 17-1 in 1993 during Bob Knight's heyday as coach. With home games against Iowa and Ohio State, Indiana has a chance to clinch the title before the finale at Michigan on March 10.
Six weeks ago, this game looked like one of the many marquee matchups that have marked Big Ten play this season, with a conference as strong as it's been in maybe decades. But while the Hoosiers kept winning after their 88-81 hold-on-at-the-end victory on Jan. 12 over then-No. 8 Minnesota, the Gophers sputtered.