Jan. 4, 2012
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MINNEAPOLIS — Big Ten Conference, take note: the University of Iowa men’s basketball team is running up the league standings, not running away from road challenges.
In a conference known for defending the home court, the Hawkeyes used a stingy 2-3 zone defense to stifle host Minnesota and leave Williams Arena with a 64-62 victory Wednesday — their second consecutive win away from home.
“We re-focused immediately after we beat Wisconsin (72-65 on Dec. 31 in Madison),” UI head coach Fran McCaffery said. “We didn’t allow that game to distract us. A lot of the things we did in that game to be successful, we did (at Minnesota).
“There is no explanation when you get a group of guys that fight like we did. There is never a game of perfect — it was not a perfect game, but it was game that we fought, and that’s what you want. When your team fights, you can live with anything that happens from there.”
Iowa improved to 10-6 overall, 2-1 in the Big Ten, despite missing six straight free throws over the final 39.4 seconds. The Gophers dropped their third consecutive league game and slip to 12-4, 0-3. It is Minnesota’s first home loss in 11 contests this season.
With 5:07 left in the first half, Minnesota’s Andre Hollins made a layup to put the home team ahead, 32-21. Iowa went on a 10-0 run over the final 3:23 of the first half to close within 32-31 at the break. Hawkeye senior Matt Gatens sank two 3-point field goals during the late first-half rally; Zach McCabe was 2-for-2 from the free throw line and Aaron White added a last-second layup.
“At that point, our defensive focus and our intelligence offensively made it a one-point game and (Minnesota) lost all its momentum,” McCaffery said.
Iowa entertains nationally ranked Ohio State Saturday at 2 p.m. on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. You can order tickets online by clicking HERE.
“When you’re down 11 in the first half, you have to step up and do something,” Gatens said. “It was a huge momentum-shifter going into halftime. They made a little bit of a run there to start the second half, but we came right back at them and took the lead, and didn’t look back from there.”
Gatens finished with a 7-of-11 shooting effort from the field and led all scorers with 19 points. He also had six rebounds and three assists.
“It’s a huge win for us, two in a row on the road,” Gatens said. “We all know it isn’t easy to win in the Big Ten — they’re all great environments. It was a total team effort out there. When you get the W, you can’t complain too much.”
It is the first time the Hawkeyes have won back-to-back Big Ten road games since the 2006-07 season. That year they won at Michigan (69-62) on Jan. 31 and won at Minnesota (91-78) on Feb. 7.
Minnesota made the first two field goals in the second half, then the Hawkeyes took off. With 17:04 left, Gatens converted a rebound after a miss by Roy Devyn Marble to tie the score at 38. Iowa led the rest of the way, building an eight-point edge when Marble scored off a steal with 58 second remaining. The Hawkeyes added one more point — a Marble free throw — and held on. Gopher guard Maverick Ahanmisi misfired on a last-second jump shot.
Gatens wasn’t the only Hawkeye to turn in a big game. McCabe added 12 points and seven rebounds, White scored 10 points with six rebounds. Marble scored nine points with four rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Iowa shot 46 percent from the field for the game and 50 percent (11-of-22) in the second half. The Hawkeyes were not as sharp as usual from the free throw line, but they attempted 24 compared to just 10 by the Gophers.
Julian Welch led three Minnesota players in double figures with 14 points. The Gophers were held to 17.4 percent shooting from 3-point range (4-of-23).
Iowa returns to Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Jan. 7, against Ohio State. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. (CT).
“We need the big crowd and I think Hawk fans will show up in force,” McCaffery said. “It should be a great atmosphere. We want to take everything we have — focus, concentration, execution, great bench play — but our guys are ready.”