IOWA CITY, Iowa – The lights dimmed as Iowa ran onto the court Saturday afternoon for its game against Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.
For the Gophers, it appeared the lights went out earlier in the day when freshman Kris Humphries – the Big Ten’s leading scorer and rebounder – was scratched from the lineup because of a right ankle injury.
Without the 6-foot-9-inch forward patrolling the paint on defense and drawing attention from the Hawkeyes, the Gophers struggled early before making a late run.
The game wasn’t decided until the waning moments when Iowa sank six free throws in the final 38 seconds to seal a 66-62 win.
“For one day (of practice without Humphries), I thought our guys did a great job moving the ball and getting some shots,” Gophers coach Dan Monson said. “Obviously, we had to take more perimeter shots than normal, but I thought the battle was there and the want-to was there.”
With Iowa leading 60-56 and less than three minutes remaining, the Gophers (10-17, 2-13 Big Ten) had two possessions to cut into the lead.
Both times, Minnesota didn’t convert. Michael Bauer – who kept the Gophers from getting blown out in the first half with 13 points – missed a three-pointer on the first shot.
The next time down, Adam Boone was called for a charge.
The Gophers didn’t get any closer as Iowa pulled away on the free-throw line.
“In the second half, my legs kind of got tired,” said Bauer, who finished with a team-high 16 points. “It was a lot of fun to get out there and feel comfortable.”
Monson said he thought Humphries’ absence was most noticeable on the defensive end. Without him, Iowa (15-10, 8-6) scored 34 points in the paint and didn’t get into the foul trouble (13 team fouls) Humphries usually creates.
“He has been such a consistent rebounder for us and his physical strength inside, we didn’t have,” Monson said.
With Minnesota leading 22-17 midway through the first half, Iowa went on a 15-0 run to take control of the game.
With 11:23 remaining in the game, the Hawkeyes took their largest lead of the night at 57-38. Iowa would only get one more field goal the rest of the way.
After failing to show any late-game resiliency in their last two losses to Purdue and Ohio State, the Gophers stormed back, highlighted by an 11-0 run.
“We keep fighting, and when you keep fighting, you just never know what’s going to happen at the end,” said Aaron Robinson, who had a career-high 12 points.
The Gophers’ zone defense and half-court trap started creating problems for Iowa during the comeback. Also, Minnesota’s three-point shooting – 10-for-30 for the game – came to life.
The Gophers nailed four trifectas in the final 11:23 and, along with Iowa’s shooting woes, stunned the crowd of 15,500 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City to set up the final moments.
“We have had that all year,” said Boone, who added 14 points. “We were pretty aggressive in attacking them and, when that happens and a team is coming back, the offense can get tentative.”
Brody Boyd scored 16 points to lead four Hawkeyes in double figures.
“In the second half, we let the pressure get to us,” said Pierre Pierce, who scored 12 points and added seven assists. “We made the game a lot tougher than it should have been. Minnesota did a good job in fighting back.”
The loss concludes the Gophers’ road schedule. Minnesota failed to win at least two Big Ten games away from Williams Arena since 2000, Monson’s first year.
In addition, the Gophers will finish in last place regardless of the outcome of their game against Penn State next Saturday.