It's the Gophers

March 9, 2006

Editor’s Note: will provide live and free coverage of each post-game press conference featuring Steve Alford during the 2006 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament in Indianapolis. The link to the video will be inside Hawkeye All-Access, the multi-media area inside, the official world wide web site of the Iowa Hawkeyes. To get there, click HERE

Steve Alford’s nationally ranked Iowa Hawkeyes will square off against Minnesota in second round action of the 2006 Big Ten Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament Friday afternoon in Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Tipoff is set for 5:40 pm Iowa time. The game will be televised live by ESPN Plus.

Iowa, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, received a first round bye in the league’s annual post-season extravaganza. Minnesota – the tournament’s No. 10 seed – upset No. 7 seed Michigan in the second game of the day, 59-55, and, by doing so, gave the Hawkeyes and Gophers a chance to break a deadlock in games played between the teams in 2005-06.

Iowa split its two Big Ten regular season games versus the Gophers, winning in Iowa City on Jan. 18 by a score of 76-72 in a game that required three extra sessions. Senior Erek Hansen was the difference in that contest.

In the first triple overtime game in Carver-Hawkeye Arena’s 23-year history, the center scored a game-high 20 points — six better than his previous career high. “I wasn’t really expecting it, but all the guards were finding me when I was open, so I was able to hit my shots. They kept getting me the ball, so I kept making the shots,” the Big Ten’s Defensive Player of the Year said.

Hansen, who went 7 of 12 from the field and 6 of 6 at the line, also had a game-high five blocks, all while playing the final overtime with four fouls. For good measure, he played a career-high 38 minutes, too.

“I didn’t want to block shots (because of the fouls),” Hansen said. “I just wanted to be a big palm tree and stick my hands up in the air and make them shoot over me.”

The Hawkeyes struggled in its rematch with the Gophers, falling in Minneapolis on Feb. 18 by a 74-61 count. Iowa was outrebounded by the Gophers and had only two players – Greg Brunner with 17 and Jeff Horner with 13 – score in double-digits in a game where Iowa never really found itself offensively.

The Hawkeyes and Gophers have met just once in Big Ten Tournament play with Iowa winning by an 81-78 score in the 2000 event at the United Center in Chicago.

Alford and UM Coach Dan Monson, who are close friends, are both in their seventh season in the Big Ten. Only Michigan State’s Tom Izzo has been prowling the league’s sidelines longer.

The Hawkeyes traveled to Indianapolis confident that they were already included among the field of 65 that will participate in this year’s NCAA Tournament. The 2006 Big Ten Conference Tournament provides Alford’s squad with two opportunities: A chance to win a title and an opportunity to improve its starting point in the NCAA’s post-season party.

“We like our chances of winning a championship,” Alford said earlier this week. “We also know that a strong showing in our conference tournament will do nothing but improve our standing in the eyes of the selection committee with respect to where we start.

“We’re probably a four or five (seed) right now,” Iowa’s head coach continued. “A few wins in Indy will certainly enhance that and provide us just that much more momentum.”

Iowa and Minnesota split their two regular season games with each team winning on their home court.

The field for the 2006 NCAA Tournament will be announced officially on Sunday at 5 p.m. Iowa time with the broadcast of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Selection Show by CBS Sports.

Penn State, the tournament’s No. 6 seed, defeated No. 9 seed Northwestern, 60-42, in the opening game of the tournament. The Nittany Lions now must prepare for an 11 a.m. date with the Big Ten’s regular season champion, Ohio State, Friday in Conseco.

That contest and the Wisconsin (No. 4) versus Indiana (No. 5) game that will follow in the first session on Friday will be televised live by ESPN.

Iowa’s game against Minnesota will be the first game in Friday’s evening session. It will be followed by Illinois (No. 3) against the winner of Michigan State (No. 6) and Purdue (No. 11). Both of those events will be televised live by ESPN Plus.