|Minnesota 63 Iowa 50|
The Hawkeyes were on the road again Saturday afternoon in Williams Arena to take on Tubby Smith’s Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers were already looking at this game as a must win for them to keep their slim NCAA Tournament hopes alive while Iowa is still just looking to improve with every game. Minnesota controlled the tempo from the beginning and took an early lead that they never relinquished en route to a 63-50 win over the Hawkeyes.
Minnesota started the game in a full court press in an attempt to speed up the Hawkeyes and get the game played at their pace. Coming into the game, the Gophers were the “fastest” team in the Big Ten in terms of possessions per game, while Iowa ranked last in the conference in pace. In the end, Iowa, as has been the case all year, was able to dictate the tempo and held Minnesota to only 59 offensive possessions in the game, their lowest in any game this season. What the Gopher press did do was force Iowa into a lot of bad turnovers, something that has been the Hawkeyes’ Achilles Heel all season. Iowa turned the ball over 18 times in a 57 possession game, or 31 percent of the time they had the ball. Not good.
Iowa’s 50 points breaks down to just 0.87 points-per-possession, not exactly an efficient outing on offense. Minnesota’s offense was much more efficient scoring 1.06 points-per-possession thanks in large part to Iowa turnovers and Minnesota offensive rebounds. The Gopher’s pulled down 11 offensive rebounds compared to just 2 for the Hawkeyes. The tough part about this loss is that despite Minnesota’s tough pressure defense, Iowa did shoot the ball very well. The Hawks finished 47% from the floor (18-38) and 9 of 21 from three-point land (43%); they just didn’t get enough opportunities to score thanks to the 18 turnovers.
Coach Todd Lickliter put it bluntly after the game, "I need to give (Minnesota) credit, but on the other side, it's just nearly impossible to win if you can't pass or catch the ball."
"We had 38 field-goal attempts and they had 53, and we assisted them a number of times," Lickliter said. "That's not a good thing."
Justin Johnson led Iowa with 15 points on 5 of 14 shooting (3-11 on threes) and Tony Freeman scored 12 points on the afternoon all from the three-point line (4-8). Johnson and Freeman also led the Hawks in turnovers with 5 and 4 respectively. Seth Gorney didn’t miss a shot on the night and finished one point away from a double-double with 9 points on 4 of 4 shooting and pulled down 10 boards.
Up next for Iowa are two very winnable home games against Michigan on Thursday and then Northwestern on the 19th. The Hawkeyes dropped to 4-8 in conference and 11-14 overall, and even with a favorable schedule the rest of the way it looks as though a .500 record is all but out of the question. Iowa would have to win 5 out of their last 6 to finish 9-9 in conference, a large task for a team that hasn’t won back-to-back games since Eastern Illinois and UNI back in early December.