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February 27, 2013

No. 1 goes down again

MINNEAPOLIS — Indiana was starting to settle in again at No. 1 after weeks of shuffling at the top of the national rankings in this wildly unpredictable season of college basketball.

Trevor Mbakwe and Minnesota stepped forward, flexed their muscles and did their best to push the Hoosiers out.

Mbakwe had 21 points and 12 rebounds to help the Gophers take down top-ranked Indiana 77-73 on Tuesday night, the seventh time the No. 1 team in The Associated Press’ poll has lost a game this season.

“We’re trying to do big things so we have to learn from this mistake, but we have to dust it off real fast,” Hoosiers star Victor Oladipo said.

Andre Hollins added 16 points for the Gophers (19-9, 7-8 Big Ten), who outrebounded Cody Zeller and the Hoosiers by a whopping 44-30 and solidified their slipping NCAA tournament bid with an emphatic performance against the Big Ten leader. The fans swarmed the court as the last second ticked off, the first time that’s happened here in years.

“We weren’t physical enough on the glass. That’s the bottom line,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said.

Zeller was held to nine points with four turnovers for the Hoosiers (24-4, 12-3), who have held the No. 1 ranking for 10 of 17 polls this season including the last four. Oladipo scored 16 points, but 14 of the 17 points by Jordan Hulls came before halftime.

“Cody’s certainly capable of a lot,” Crean said, “and I think he’ll bounce back just fine.”

Mbakwe, a sixth-year senior, posted his conference-leading seventh double-double. At 24 years old, he was a man among boys in many ways in this game, dominating both ends of the court when the Gophers needed him most. Minnesota had 23 offensive rebounds.

“We did need to play with a sense of urgency, play with a little edge,” Gophers coach Tubby Smith said. “I think Trevor set that tone for us.”

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