Feb. 17, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Take away the first eight minutes, and Sunday’s 72-51 victory over Minnesota for the University of Iowa men’s basketball team would have been pure domination.
The Gophers landed the first punch, jumping out to a 12-4 lead over the first four minutes before stretching its advantage to 21-5 courtesy of three free throws by Austin Hollins at the 12:57 mark. The Gophers made 6-of-9 shots to start the game and were 9-of-9 from the free throw stripe.
“Rarely do you get down by 15 and win by 20,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “Our team could have wilted (when we were down early). We haven’t shown that we’re going to do that any time at all this year.”
From there, Minnesota scored 30 points the rest of the way.
“I don’t know if I have seen such a dramatic turnaround in such a short time,” said Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith.
The Hawkeyes began the rally by scoring 13 unanswered points to cut the deficit to 23-21 with 7:07 left in the first half. Junior Roy Devyn Marble opened the run with a pair of free throws before junior White scored seven of Iowa’s next nine points to make the score 23-19. Freshman Mike Gesell’s layup then cut it to two.
“We’re down 21-5, but the whole time I am thinking we’re going to come back and win the game,” said White, who scored 15 points on 4-of-6 shooting. “Everyone on the team thought that, that’s why we came back and executed so well.”
Marble gave Iowa its first lead (29-27) with 2:51 remaining in the half after connecting on his second straight 3-pointer, and the Hawkeyes went into the break with the 34-29 lead after junior Zach McCabe converted three free throw attempts after getting fouled by Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe with 1.5 seconds left in the first half.
“I don’t know what we were thinking,” said Marble, who tied for the team lead with 15 points. “We dug in, showed a lot of character and got the W. I don’t think I have ever been in a game where points were swinging like that. It was in our favor, so I’ll take it.”
Back-to-back field goals by freshman Adam Woodbury helped Iowa open up a 38-29 lead in the second half. After Minnesota cut the lead to 42-35, junior Melsahn Basabe’s had a steal on the sideline before finding senior Eric May for a breakaway dunk plus one to send the sellout crowd of 15,400 fans in a frenzy.
“Mel (Basabe) made such a spectacular play to go dive into the scorer’s table and get me the ball,” said May. “Those plays kind of spark energy and spark a run. It is plays like that that allow us to win games like this.”
May’s three-point play opened a 15-3 Hawkeye run that broke the game open, extending the Iowa lead to 57-38 with 6:25 to play. Iowa pushed its lead to 20 points on a pair of White free throws with 4:20 to play and the lead swelled to a game-high 23 points on a Pat Ingram free throws with 34 seconds remaining.
“May had big play after big play, and was really good in the press,” said White. “Mel (Basabe) had that steal and threw it up to Eric for the and-one dunk, a huge play. He has been that all year long.”
A total of five Hawkeyes landed in double figures. Along with White and Marble, Gesell finished with 11 points and four steals, McCabe had 10 points with a 7-of-7 performance from the free throw stripe, and May had 10 points and a team-best seven rebounds.
The Hawkeyes shot 48.8 percent (21-of-43) from the field, which included a 61.1 (11-of-18) performance in the second half. Iowa was 5-of-9 from 3-point range and made 25-of-31 free throw attempts. The team also had 12 steals.
Minnesota opened the game 6-of-9 from the field, but made 11-of-36 shots the rest of the way, finishing with a 36.2 (17-of-47) field goal percentage. The Gophers made three 3-pointers and were 14-of-23 from the free throw line. The team also committed 17 turnovers.
Mbakwe scored 10 points in the first half, but finished with 13 points for the game. Austin Hollins netted 14 points to pace Minnesota.
Iowa has won three straight Big Ten games for the first time since the 2007 season. The team’s record improves to 17-9 overall and 6-7 in league play.
The Hawkeyes return to action Thursday in Lincoln, Neb., facing Nebraska at 8 p.m. (CT).
“They’re playing really well,” said McCaffery of Nebraska. “They’re going to challenge us in a lot of ways, and we have to be ready for them.”