Jarrod Uthoff rescues Iowa from second-half meltdown at Minnesota

Chad Leistikow
Iowa  forward Jarrod Uthoff (20) drives to the basket in the first half against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Williams Arena. His shot with 3.5 seconds remaining broke a tie score and sent the Hawkeyes to a 77-75 win.

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."