Jarrod Uthoff rescues Iowa from second-half meltdown at Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- Jarrod Uthoff was a one-man rescue boat for an Iowa basketball team that was in desperate need of a life preserver.
Uthoff delivered a stone-cold 17-footer with 3.5 seconds remaining Tuesday night, sending the Hawkeyes to a 77-75 win over Minnesota before a stunned crowd at Williams Arena.
DeAndre Mathieu drove the length of the floor for what would have been a tying layup, but official D.J. Carstensen waved off the bucket. Replays confirmed that the ball was in Mathieu's hand when the clock struck zero.
And, somehow, the Hawkeyes have a 3-1 start in the Big Ten Conference after it looked all but certain they would squander one in a big way.
Iowa had blown all of its 17-point second-half lead until Uthoff saved the day.
"I just called a play, they ran it and scored on it. The reality is, somebody's got to make that shot," Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. "Jarrod Uthoff made a big, big basket there."
The junior from Cedar Rapids scored Iowa's final seven points and finished with a career-high 22. Uthoff's 3-pointer with 2:01 left — after Minnesota missed a pair of front-end one-and-one free throws — returned Iowa to the lead at 75-73.
Uthoff has become the go-to guy for Iowa in clutch situations in big games. He made two huge buckets late in the Big Ten season-opening win at Ohio State, and he was there again for Iowa on Tuesday.
McCaffery knew Uthoff, at 6-foot-9, had mismatches when Iowa had the ball, even though the Gophers' quickness was a problem on the other end.
"I kept telling Mike (Gesell) to get me the ball, because I was feeling it," Uthoff said. "A lot of times they were switching off, either Mathieu or Hollins — somebody that is a foot shorter than me. That definitely helped."
A Mathieu bucket evened the score, but Iowa got a chance for the win after Gabe Olaseni blocked Carlos' Morris jumper with 44 seconds to go. Joey King re-gathered for a 3-point try, but he missed, too, setting up Iowa's shot at the victory.
"I challenged Gabe at one of the later timeouts, I said, 'Somebody's got to block a shot here,' " McCaffery said. "You could argue that was as big a defensive stop as we had all game."
Earlier, it looked like a meltdown for the ages.
Iowa led 51-34 on Peter Jok's 3-pointer with 16:07 to play, completing a refreshing second-half start.
"We basically had everything cooking. Up 17, which is what you want — dead quiet on the road," said Iowa's Aaron White, who finished with 13 points.
Then Minnesota charged. Morris' 3-pointer with 5:25 to play gave Minnesota a 70-67 lead and capped an incredible rally that saw the Gophers score on 15 of 17 possessions.
"For us to battle back and have the — I don't know what you want to call it — and come back, that was huge," Uthoff said.
Morris was one of three Gophers starters who were benched by coach Richard Pitino in an effort to spark a team that was off to a 0-4 Big Ten start. Morris ended up leading the Gophers (now 11-7 overall) with 20 points.
"You knew sooner or later they were going to make some 3s," McCaffery said.
Iowa improved to 12-5 overall and is now 3-0 in true road games, with wins at North Carolina, Ohio State and now Minnesota. The Hawkeyes host the Buckeyes at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Then comes a showdown at Wisconsin next Tuesday.
"We've got a good team, and so far so good on the road," White said. "We know it's only going to get tougher. We've just got to keep it rolling."