Nail-biter favors Golden Gophers, 52-49

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Jan. 8, 2009

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by Derek Sawvell

IOWA CITY, Iowa — In a game of important momentum swings, the University of Iowa men’s basketball team lost a nail-biter to No. 19 Minnesota, 52-49, inside Carver Hawkeye Arena on Thursday night.

Minnesota had lost seven of its last eight games at Iowa, including the last four, but the Gophers came back from a 13-point deficit to move its record to 14-1 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten Conference. Iowa fell to 11-5, 1-2.

Jeff Peterson led the Hawkeyes with 16 points while Matt Gatens added 11. Minnesota had a balanced scoring attack with Lawrence Westbrook and Travis Busch both scoring 10 points.

“It was a hard-fought win for us,” said Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith. “Iowa was really playing well. When you can get a win on the road, it’s a good win in this league.”

“If we were going to win this game, it was going to be a possession game,” said Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter. “You don’t have to be a basketball expert to figure this one out. They had six offensive rebounds at the half and 18 for the game and we had 17 turnovers.”

“Rebounding was a big focus for us in the second half,” said Smith.

Minnesota finished the game with 35 rebounds, while Iowa grabbed 31. Minnesota had 11 turnovers.

Iowa’s Cyrus Tate went down with an ankle sprain in the first half and did not return.

“It was huge without Tate,” said Smith. “I hope Cyrus is OK. You don’t like to see that.”

The Hawkeyes and Gophers traded buckets early in the first half with Minnesota holding an 8-7 lead through the first five minutes of play.

Minnesota played an extended man-to-man defense that the Hawkeyes began to exploit by dribbling and penetrating to the basket for easy buckets. That resulting in a 16-2 run to give Iowa a 23-10 lead with 4:57 left in the first half. Anchoring thespurt was Jarryd Cole with a two-handed jam. Cole was also fouled on the play and would convert his free-throw for the three-point play.

“We couldn’t stop them off the dribble,” said Smith. “On the road for the first time in a hostile environment, the shots just weren’t going down.”

“In the first half we did a lot of great things,” said Lickliter.

Minnesota’s Ralph Sampson III answered the Cole dunk with a slam of his own to spark a 10-3 run by the Gophers to end the first half. Minnesota also helped itself defensively by switching to a 2-3 zone. Iowa’s only basket during the last four minutes of the half was a three-pointer by Peterson. Iowa remained on top at the half, 26-20.

“We thought we would go smaller and the zone in the first half helped us settle down,” said Smith.

Peterson and Gatens both scored five in the half for the Hawkeyes, while Westbrook also added five for the Golden Gophers. Iowa shot 44 percent (11-25) for the half while holding Minnesota to 32 percent (8-25). Iowa also found 16 of its 26 points in the paint thanks to the dribble-penetration around Minnesota’s extended man-to-man defense.

After a three-pointer by Jermain Davis gave the Hawkeyes a 31-24 lead early in the second half, the Gophers began pounding the ball inside, converting points in the paint before Busch hit a three-pointer to give Minnesota a 36-33 lead with 9:17 remaining in the game.

“Busch comes in and plays with so much heart,” said Smith. “I thought he was huge. He made a lot of hustle plays.”

Iowa went 12 minutes without a field goal, while Minnesota continued to increase its lead to 41-33 after a 17-2 scoring run. Gatens quickly responded for the Hawkeyes with back-to-back three-pointers to cut the Minnesota lead to four 43-39 but Minnesota’s Al Nolen answered with a three-point basket of his own to seemingly put the game out of reach 46-39.

“For a stretch in the second half we were passive,” said Lickliter. “It’s my job to get consistency out of them.”

After a basket by Jake Kelly and a three-pointer from Peterson, Iowa had cut the lead to one (50-49) with five seconds to play. Westbrook then hit two important free throws to ice the game for the Gophers, 52-49.

Iowa’s next game is on the road at Michigan on Sunday, Jan. 11 at 10:30 a.m.