No. 7 Iowa 86, No. 17 Minnesota 71: Here's what we learned
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Minnesota started chipping away at what seemed like a safe Iowa lead Sunday, making uncontested 3-pointers to create some tense moments in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
History repeating itself?
This time, the No. 7 Hawkeyes hung on to the lead, getting big baskets from four different veteran players to push past the No. 17 Gophers 86-71.
It was a fourth consecutive victory for Iowa (11-2, 5-1 Big Ten Conference) since that meltdown in Minneapolis on Christmas Day let Minnesota (10-4, 3-4) pull out a miraculous overtime victory.
On Sunday, the Hawkeyes watched an 18-point lead dwindle to five before Luka Garza responded with a pair of big baskets en route to 33 points. Jack Nunge made one basket all game, but it was a clutch one from the left baseline to put the Hawkeyes ahead by double digits.
Jordan Bohannon, who dished out a career-high 14 assists, made a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer from the right elbow that essentially sealed things. He scored 19 points, after having only seven in that loss in Minnesota. His turnaround from that game has helped fuel this winning streak.
And Joe Wieskamp scored four of his 20 points in the waning minutes to send a clear signal that this game was not going to slip away from the Hawkeyes. Not again. Not on their home court.
Here's what we learned:
Marquee matchup in the post
Garza was aggressive about attacking Liam Robbins early, sprinting downcourt to get positioning and putting pressure on the Gophers’ 7-footer. It was an entertaining matchup to watch, and both had their moments. Garza scored six early points, but Robbins also blocked two of the all-American’s shots.
By halftime, Garza had 15 points and Robbins eight. Most importantly, each had been called for just one foul, leaving them able to continue the battle unimpeded in the second half. It was Garza who dominated that one-on-one battle after intermission.
Gophers cold from arc
Minnesota handed Iowa its lone Big Ten loss of the season on Christmas Day when it made 17 of 43 3-point shots. Brandon Johnson had eight of them, including four in an overtime session the Gophers dominated en route to a 102-95 victory. But Minnesota might have been too eager to shoot from 3 in the rematch.
Certainly, Iowa’s defense at the arc was better. The Gophers made only 4 of 17 first-half attempts from 3, often pulling the trigger early without adequate ball movement. Johnson attempted only one 3-pointer in the first half Sunday. He missed. Minnesota ended 10 of 34 from 3-point range, a reduction of 21 points from the first meeting.
Iowa passes well, endures long cold stretch
Iowa’s passing was much better than the Gophers’, and its shot selection was also better. The Hawkeyes had 12 assists to Minnesota’s seven in the first half, led by six from point guard Bohannon. And the Hawkeyes made 5 of their 8 3-point attempts. That is why, despite a stretch in which Iowa made only 1 of 12 shots from the field, it was able to take a 39-37 lead into the halftime locker room.
Quiet day for Iowa power forwards
Connor McCaffery started at power forward as usual but picked up a pair of first-half fouls and wasn't able to have his usual impact. Freshman Keegan Murray came in but also was whistled for two quick fouls and didn't score a point in an unusually subdued performance for him. Nunge did grab 10 rebounds but tallied just three points in his 17 minutes. Iowa didn't need a lot of production from that spot in this game, but it was odd to see all three players struggle to score in the same game.
Iowa next hosts Michigan State at 8 p.m. Thursday.
Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at email@example.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.