For third straight home game, Gophers notch a win

C.J. Spang

Minnesotaís menís basketball team can be compared to a light switch this season ó on one game and off the next.

After having an off night against Michigan earlier in the week, the Gophers bounced back with a 74-61 upset win Saturday over No. 18 Iowa at Williams Arena.

ìYou come off a game like Wednesday,” coach Dan Monson said, ìand you gotta wonder whatís going through guysí heads as far as are we really going to keep fighting together because we got really disjointed at Michigan. I think they answered that question today.”

Minnesota (13-10, 4-8 Big Ten) was unaffected by the frigid temperatures outside, as they opened a blistering 8-of-12 from the field to grab a 19-15 lead with 9:17 remaining in the half.

The Hawkeyes (20-7, 9-4 Big Ten), on the other hand, couldnít find their shooting touch, going just 4-of-13 in that same span, but stayed close thanks to their free throw shooting.

Iowa was 9-of-11 from the charity stripe in the first half, which pulled them within one point, trailing 28-27 with 3:13 remaining.

But once again, the Gophers caught fire from the field, hitting their final five shots to close out the half on a 10-2 run and enter the locker room at halftime leading 38-29.

ìI thought our team defense was great,” senior forward Zach Puchtel said. ìWe all had each otherís backs Ö guys werenít worrying ó this is my man, this is the other man, it was just, guys need to be guarded Ö it was a great effort today.”

Unlike the game against Michigan, where Minnesotaís defense was nowhere to be found, it was obvious from the Hawkeyes first possession ó when the Gophers double-teamed senior forward Greg Brunner and caused him to step out of bounds ó that Minnesota came to play.

If there was one defense lapse, however, it was the start of the second half.

ìWe lost grip of it on the defensive end to start the second half,” Monson said. ìI didnít really think we came out (in) the second half with the same intensity.”

That lapse, coupled with Iowaís stymieing zone defense, allowed the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes back into the game.

While Iowa opened the second half 6-of-11 from the floor, the Gophers couldnít do anything on the other end against the Hawkeyesí zone defense.

Minnesota found themselves down for the second time in the contest, 51-50, with 10:01 remaining in the game after junior guard Adam Haluska hit all three free throws after being fouled on a three-point attempt.

ìThis is a game where we were fighting from behind all the time,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. ìThe zone got us back in it.”

But that was the last time the Hawkeyes would lead.

Senior guard Vincent Grier hit an off-balance jumper to give Minnesota the lead for good, 52-51, with 8:40 left in the game.

It became apparent it was the Gophersí night on their next possession, when senior forward Jíson Stamper unintentionally banked in a jumper from the far corner, which led to a sheepish smile as he ran back on defense.

ìThey showed some character,” Monson said. ìThey showed a lot of togetherness and beat a great team today. It wasnít easy.”

Grier scored a game-high 18 points, thanks to going a perfect 10-for-10 from the free-throw line.

Puchtel added 10 points and eight rebounds, freshman guard Jamal Abu-Shamala scored 11 points, senior guard Adam Boone dropped in 12 points and dished out seven assists and sophomore Spencer Tollackson scored 10 points off the bench.

It was the second time this season Minnesota had five players score in double figures. The first time was in the win Feb. 11 against Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes were led by Brunner who notched a team-high 17 points and pulled down seven rebounds, but for the first time all season had no offense rebounds.

ìThe backboard was an issue all night,” Alford said. ìWe just got dominated on the glass.”

The Gophers finished the game with a 36-25 rebounding advantage.

ìThis team has played extremely well,” Alford said. ìThey play hard, theyíre deep, theyíre hard to guard and they guard you at the other end.

ìTheyíre going to be a very dangerous team come Big Ten Tournament time.”