MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. — The University of Iowa men’s basketball team had trouble handling the ball and Minnesota on Saturday as the Hawkeyes lost 63-50 in Williams Arena. With the loss Iowa falls to 4-8 in Big Ten action and 11-14 overall. Minnesota moves to 5-5 and 15-7.
The Hawkeyes struggled to find their touch early as the Gophers got off to an 8-0 start. Iowa’s first points came via junior guard Tony Freeman, who hit a three-point field goal with 16:32 left in the half. Turnovers continued to haunt Iowa as it had four early mistakes that helped Minnesota jump out to a quick start.
Senior center Seth Gorney helped Iowa stay in the game with four early points, both field goals coming from just inside the three-point arc as the Hawkeyes trailed 13-7 with 11:20 to go.
Iowa handled Minnesota’s full-court press that was applied for most of the half, which led to a few quick points down court. Luckily, the three ball was in fine shape for Iowa, which struggled to score inside and with 6:50 remaining in the half, freshman guard Jeff Peterson drilled one from behind the arc and trailed only 24-20.
Minnesota’s defense held Iowa to two shot clock violations in a row before junior forward Cyrus Tate came through and hit a layup. Minnesota had its own shot clock problem but with 1:48 left Lawrence McKenzie drilled a three as the shot clock expired to take a 29-22 lead.
The Hawkeyes continued to have woes in the turnover department when Gorney was stripped by Dan Coleman who had a fast-break dunk. McKenzie hit another from downtown with 10 seconds left and Minnesota went into the locker room up 34-25.
“You know the title,`You haven’t taught so they haven’t learned?'” UI head coach Todd Lickliter asked.”I’ve stressed it but they haven’t learned. Give Minnesota credit, they are another team out there trying to make it difficult on you, but you have to remain poised. We just struggle with doing that and it is almost simple plays. I’m afraid what happens so often is we are looking right at our teammate and you can’t do that. You have to see the opponent and what is going on.”
Iowa senior guard Justin Johnson led all scorers in the first half with 10 points on 4 of 7 shooting from the field and 2 of 5 from the arc. He had only three points Wednesday against Wisconsin. McKenzie led Minnesota with eight points with most of his points coming in the last few minutes of the half.
They say turnovers will kill a team and it certainly did for the Hawkeyes in the first half considering Iowa shot a much higher percentage than the Golden Gophers. Iowa’s 10 first half turnovers were the difference as Minnesota collected 11 points off of them.
Iowa made 10 of 18 (56 percent) from the floor and 5 of 9 (56 percent) from behind the arc. Minnesota was 12 of 30 (40 percent) and 4 of 11 (36 percent). The Golden Gophers were also 6 of 7 (86 percent) from the charity stripe, Iowa was only able to get to the line once as Tate missed both of them. Iowa had no offensive boards in the half.
The Hawkeyes once again had trouble starting the half off as they scored only four points within the first five minutes. After that point, there was no troubles on the offensive end when Gorney hit another jumper before Freeman added a three to trim Minnesota’s lead to 36-34. That began a feast of three’s as Minnesota came down and added one of their own before Johnson joined the fun and drilled one.
Peterson cut Minnesota’s lead back to two with a jumper as Hawkeyes trailed only 41-39. Tate was fouled as he made a layup to knot the game up at 41-41 before taking Iowa’s first lead with the latter free throw.
“We had our moments,” said Gorney, who had 10 rebounds.”We came out and played hard sometimes but I think we got comfortable a lot and that allowed them to go on the runs that they did and give them different opportunities to score and they took advantage of it.”
The Gopher’s Al Nolen hit a three to cap off a 7-0 run to take the lead 48-42 with 8:49 remaining in the game. Freeman ended the run when he hit from downtown as the Hawkeyes trailed 48-45. Freeman was finally was able to pick up Iowa’s first offensive rebound with 5:43 remaining before he was called for a travel.
Iowa was held for over five minutes without a point which helped Minnesota take a 54-45 lead. It was all Minnesota from there as the Gophers depth proved to be too much for Iowa as they won 63-50.
Johnson led all scorers with 15 points as Freeman had 12 and Gorney added nine points. Minnesota had a steady scoring effort from McKenzie, Nolen and Spencer Tollackson who all had 11 points as Dan Coleman added 10.
Iowa had 21 turnovers which led to 19 Minnesota points. Iowa was also out-rebounded 31-23. Iowa shot 18 of 38 (47 percent) from the field, 9 of 22 (41 percent) from three point range and 5 of 7 (71 percent) from the free throw line. Minnesota was 23 of 53 (43 percent), 8 of 20 (40 percent) and 9 of 12 (75 percent).
“I think it was more lack of focus,” Lickliter said. “Let’s face it, you have to be able to pass and catch the ball. If you can’t do that, then you are going to struggle. We shot well, we defended fairly well, but you can’t defend if you throw it to them and they go down and lay it in. I refuse to believe that we can’t pass and catch but we are pretty far into the season to struggle with it.”
Iowa will travel back home for a Valentine’s Day showdown against Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 15, with an 8:05 p.m. tipoff from Carver-Hawkeye Arena.