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Ben Johnson shed tears during Sunday's senior night ceremony because he knew it would be the last time playing at home with his first Gophers men's basketball team as a head coach.

The eight-man senior class made the moment even more emotional because they believed in Johnson's vision of the program when few others did.

Payton Willis' 28 points fueled a comeback from 27 down in the second half, but the Gophers couldn't send their seniors off with a victory, falling 84-79 to Indiana in front of an announced crowd of 11,585.

"We obviously didn't want to go out the way were playing, getting blown out," Willis said. "We just chose to fight back."

The Gophers (13-14, 4-14 Big Ten) finished 3-7 in conference home games in Johnson's first year, the fewest conference wins at the Barn since 2017-18.

But Johnson got choked up talking about his seniors before they were honored after Sunday's game with their families on the court with framed jerseys.

"I wanted these guys to be proud of being here," Johnson said. "From the very beginning not many people probably even thought we would be 13-14 and win four games in the league. But these guys' belief in what we're doing and who we are got us to this point."

Willis, who had 19 points in the second half, was teary-eyed as well Sunday, after almost carrying the Gophers to their largest comeback in team history in his last game at the Barn.

A seventh three-pointer from Willis cut it to 81-76 with 24 seconds left. And E.J. Stephens hit Minnesota's 14th three of the game to make it a three-point game with 3.9 to play, but the rally was too late.

"I do believe if there's a little bit more time it would've got interesting," Johnson said. "But that effort and energy to climb back was impressive."

The Hoosiers (18-10, 9-9), who were led by Xavier Johnson's 24 points, seemed to play with a sense of urgency Sunday trying to keep themselves in NCAA tournament contention.

The Gophers opened the game with a 4-0 lead, but they were outscored 27-11 after a long-range barrage that included six of Indiana's 10 three-pointers in the first half.

Jamison Battle's three-pointer pulled the Gophers within 45-36 in the second half, but a 25-10 Hoosiers run was capped by Rob Phinisee's three, which put them ahead 70-43 with 8:21 left.

Many Gophers faithful appeared ready to head for the exit until Sean Sutherlin got the attention of fans and his teammates.

Sutherlin, a former Irondale athlete, talked about living a dream playing in front of his family and friends after transferring from New Hampshire. He had five points during the late rally, including a layup that cut it to 72-61 with just under four minutes remaining.

"[Sutherlin] had a moment in one of the huddles at the end and he just basically said we were playing soft," senior Eric Curry said. "This was our last time in this building, so he knew we all wanted to go out the right way."

Stephens and Sutherlin combined for 27 points. Curry, who overcame multiple season-ending injuries to play his sixth season, finished with six points and seven rebounds.

Six scholarship seniors were among the Gophers' 10 newcomers this season, including Stephens (Lafayette), Luke Loewe (William & Mary), Charlie Daniels (Stephen F. Austin), and Danny Ogele (Mercyhurst), who played their last game at the Barn.

Johnson talked about being grateful for what his seniors have done to help him establish the program's culture in his first year. It wasn't just about wins and losses.

But the Gophers finish the regular season with road games at Maryland and Northwestern on Wednesday and next Sunday. They still have a chance to build momentum going into the Big Ten tournament.

"My only message to them is that I wish we had that fight a little bit earlier," Johnson said. "But the ability to come back, you don't do that if you're not competitive. I've never really questioned that all year."