Despite a solid performance from a player not expected to start on Tuesday, the Minnesota men’s basketball team was unable to get a victory against Iowa State.
Both teams were able to overcome significant deficits at one point in the game – but the Cyclones timed theirs a little better, as they handed the Gophers their first lost of the year, 68-63, in front of 11,216 at Williams Arena.
Iowa State (5-0 overall, 0-0 Big 12) had the upper hand at the start of the first half, jumping out to an early lead. The Cyclones took advantage of a pair of Minnesota turnovers and an offensive rebound to give them a 13-5 lead.
That lead wouldn’t last long, as junior center Spencer Tollackson caught fire for Minnesota.
Tollackson started to pick apart the Iowa State defense and was able to get work his way into the paint. He scored seven points in under four minutes, to bring the Gophers within one with a little less than four minutes left in the half.
Tollackson’s status was a question mark for Tuesday’s game because of an ankle injury he sustained last week in a win against Long Island. However, Tollackson got the start and stole the show, getting his first career double-double with career highs in both points, with 24, and rebounds, with 13.
Coach Dan Monson said he was very happy with the way Tollackson played.
“For him to go 33 minutes, have a double-double and come in and play the way he did, he was outstanding,” he said.
Minnesota (2-1, 0-0 Big Ten) would end up taking the lead and Tollackson added a dunk and two more free throws before the half came to a close and the Gophers were able to take a 28-25 lead into the locker room.
Early in the second half, Minnesota seemed to be in control. The Gophers took their biggest lead of the game with 16:48 left to go as Tollackson hit a pair of free throws to give the Minnesota a 10-point lead, 35-25.
But Iowa State junior guard Mike Taylor was a godsend for the Cyclones as he hit five three pointers in just over 10 minutes to single handedly bring his team charging back.
Cyclones coach Greg McDermott said Taylor always has the green light to shoot.
“When Mike is playing with that kind of confidence, you just have to let him go,” he said.
Gophers junior guard Limar Wilson said it was tough to guard Taylor in the second half.
“He was hitting some tough shots,” he said. “When your coach has the confidence in you like that, you take a lot of shots and you’re going to end up making some of them and getting hot.”
Taylor’s three-point explosion coupled with Minnesota’s inability to hit shots late resulted in the Gophers watching their lead slip away from them.
Minnesota was up by three with 3:41 to go, but two consecutive three-point baskets by Iowa State, both of which were off offensive rebounds, left the Gophers down three points with 1:35 left to play.
Minnesota had several chances to close the gap in the final minute of the game but the Gophers went cold and couldn’t find a way to put points on the board.
That forced Minnesota to start fouling and the Cyclones were able to hit five of their last nine free throws to seal the deal.
Monson said he didn’t think his team had complete control defensively the entire game and he believes his team needs to work on being more consistent.
“We made a lot of mistakes early and then especially late,” he said. “Then we got a little tired offensively and missed some shots in the last four or five minutes of the game and you have to make those shots if you’re going to win games.”