Feb. 14, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — The No. 4/5 University of Iowa men’s basketball team withstood Minnesota’s best shot in a 75-71 victory Sunday night on Mediacom Court inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The win moves Iowa to 20-5 overall — its fourth-straight 20-win season — and into sole possession of first place in the Big Ten Conference standings. Minnesota falls to 0-13 in league play and 6-19 overall.
“A win is a win,” said senior guard Mike Gesell. “It shows a lot of character for us to win a game like this. We knew what we were getting into (with Minnesota). They have been in almost every game in the Big Ten, and they’re a team that continues fighting.”
Minnesota led 26-22 with four minutes remaining in the first half before Iowa received any point contribution from its senior All-America candidate. Junior Peter Jok ignited the Hawkeyes with a step-back 3-pointer to cut the lead to one before Jarrod Uthoff got himself going with a driving layup with 3:03 left in the half to give Iowa a 27-26 lead.
After missing his first seven shots of the game, Uthoff scored Iowa’s final nine points of the half, including a Chris Kingsbury-esque deep 3-pointer to push the lead to 32-28. The Hawkeyes led 34-28 at the half.
“It was a big momentum changer,” said Uthoff of his late surge. “It was important for us from a confidence standpoint to get them on their heels more.”
Jok matched Uthoff’s hot streak to start the second half, scoring 11 of Iowa’s first 13 points to stretch the Hawkeye advantage to double digits at 49-39. Minnesota didn’t roll over even though it hasn’t won since mid-December.
“If you study this team, you’re going to have to fight until the end, execute, and do things,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “You’re going to have to overcome adversity throughout the course of the game because they’re going to create that. They’re going to keep coming.”
It was a seesaw; Iowa surged, the Gophers fought back.
Minnesota closed the gap to 49-45 on a Kevin Dorsey layup with 11:29 remaining; Iowa pushed its lead back to eight (57-49) on a Uthoff layup with 10 minutes to play. The Gophers cut the deficit to five with 8:13 left; Iowa went back up seven with 6:46 remaining; Dorsey cut the lead to 63-59 with a 3-pointer with 5:58 to play.
After the Gophers closed to within 66-64 with 2:58 remaining, Jok connected on a 3-pointer from the wing 12 seconds later to push the lead to five. A minute and a half later, Gesell dished out his 12th assist, finding Uthoff for a dunk to open up a 72-66 lead and essentially ice the game with 1:17 to play.
“We understand we’re going to go through hard fought games like this, physical games,” said senior Anthony Clemmons. “We’re trying to make sure we have our minds mentally right each and every day.
“Whenever you get a win in this league it’s a big win. It makes you that much closer to your ultimate goal.”
Jok led all scorers with 27 points — his eighth 20-point game this season — making 8-of-14 field goals, four 3-pointers, and seven free throws. Uthoff posted his third double-double, finishing with 24 points, a career-high 15 rebounds, and six blocks (tying a career-best).
“Uthoff was great because he started slow and continued to be aggressive,” said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. “That’s been the evolution of him as a player. We needed him to do that today; 24-15-6 is a pretty good night.”
Clemmons was the third Hawkeye in double figures, finishing with 12 points on 5-of-8 shooting. Gesell chipped in five points, but orchestrated the win with a 12 assists (to zero turnovers) night.
The Hawkeyes shot 42.1 percent for the game and assisted on 17 of their 24 field goals. Iowa made 6-of-19 3-point field goals, and went 21-of-30 from the free throw stripe.
Guard Nate Mason led a group of four Minnesota players in double figures, scoring 14 points — all in the second half — and dished out six assists. The Gophers shot 38.5 percent from the field and went 6-of-22 from 3-point range. Minnesota out-rebounded Iowa, 42-38, and it turned 14 offensive rebounds into a 13-0 advantage into second chance points.
The Hawkeyes return to action Wednesday, traveling to University Park for a road game at Penn State at 5:30 p.m. (CT).