Iowa up next in Big Ten quarterfinal

Minnesota and Iowa split the season series, with each team winning at home.

by C.J. Spang

INDIANAPOLIS – After pulling off the upset over Michigan in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament, Minnesota’s men’s basketball has advanced to the quarterfinals.

The 10th-seeded Gophers square off against the second-seeded Hawkeyes at 5:40 p.m. today at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“We’re 10th in the league, it’s over. That’s where we ended up in the league,” coach Dan Monson said. “Fact is we think we’re better than that, but we gotta go prove it.”

Minnesota (15-13, 5-11 Big Ten) showed that scrap in its first two games against Iowa this season.

On Jan. 18, the Gophers lost a triple-overtime thriller to Iowa 76-72 in Iowa City, Iowa. One month later, on Feb. 18, Minnesota knocked off the Big Ten-leading Hawkeyes 74-61 at Williams Arena.

“On paper we match up better with them but it’s all about how you play,” senior guard Adam Boone said. “But if we come out thinking that it’s just a good matchup, we’re going to be in trouble.”

One thing the Gophers cannot do is turn the ball over like they did against Michigan.

Minnesota turned the ball over 18 times, including six by star senior guard Vincent Grier.

Grier had an off-night against Michigan, scoring 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting from the floor and 5-of-10 shooting from the free-throw line.

Despite the turnovers, the team still was pleased with his defensive effort, holding Wolverines senior guard Daniel Horton to 14 points.

“I can’t say Vince struggled,” senior guard Maurice Hargrow said, ” ’cause when you got a guy like Daniel Horton that puts so much pressure on you on defense Ö your focus needs to be sit down on defense and making him work for every basket.”

And that’s something the Gophers will have to be better at – making stops.

Monson said after the game that the defensive effort against Michigan was the best it’s been all season.

That’s something that has been a recurring theme in Minnesota’s wins this season.

In the Gophers’ five Big Ten regular-season wins, they held opponents to 54.8 points per game. But in their 11 conference losses, opponents scored 69.5 points per game.

“We try to instill in our guys that we were going to get confidence from the defensive end of the court,” Monson said.

The other key for the Gophers is free-throw shooting.

Against Michigan, Minnesota shot just 53.6 percent from the line and nearly allowed the Wolverines to come back for the victory.

But Monson doesn’t feel the game against Michigan will affect his team in its game against Iowa.

“I don’t think this game (against Michigan) has anything to do with tomorrow,” Monson said. “This is how we’re going to have to play, we’re going to have to outplay people Ö We’ve got to do it with our scrap and our fight.”