U continues Big Ten flight

Todd Zolecki

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Nobody on the Gophers men’s
basketball
team sounded too upset that they blew two large leads Saturday in a 68-66 victory against Iowa. Players weren’t exactly giddy, either.
But in the grand scheme of things — looking toward the NCAA tournament — they hope their shortcomings will help make them a more formidable opponent in the future. Minnesota’s latest win, combined with No. 2 Wake Forest’s 60-59 loss to N.C. State on Sun

day, bumped the Gophers up to No. 2 in the Feb. 16 CNN/USAToday coaches poll.
But the Gophers learned from the close Iowa game. At least they hoped they did.
“We know in the tournament everybody is good,” Gophers center John Thomas said. “And there’s not a team in the tournament that’s not there for a reason.”
Minnesota beat Iowa silly early in the game, wearing the Hawkeyes down and making it appear like a full-fledged blowout was in progress.
But there would be no massacre at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Just when the Gophers had Iowa down and out, they let up. And the Hawkeyes came back.
Minnesota built a 14-point first half lead and an 18-point second half lead — and lost both. Its second half gaffe almost cost the Gophers the game.
“We started fighting for our life down the stretch,” Gophers coach Clem Haskins said. “We probably got a little too cautious, and that happens from time to time. You’ve got to know when to hold them and when to play them. We decided to hold them, but we w

ound up winning by just two points.”
Iowa guard Andre Woolridge made an off-balance 3-pointer to tie it at 66-66 with 16.4 seconds left.
Three seconds later, just when Woolridge looked like the savior, he fouled Eric Harris while the Gophers point guard tried to bring the ball up the court. Harris went to the line to shoot two free throws.
Woolridge could only point to his head. He knew he made a mental mistake.
“I thought he lost the ball, so when I went in to reach, he fell into me,” Woolridge said. “I’m in the middle of reaching for the ball and committed the foul.”
Harris made the first shot and missed the second. Minnesota lead by one with 13 seconds to go, so Iowa worked to get the final shot — a potential game-winner.
It got one. Woolridge pulled up for an open 17-foot jumper but missed.
The ball went off the rim and into the hands of Gophers center John Thomas. Iowa forward Ryan Bowen fouled Thomas, who made one of two free throws with 0.8 seconds left.
The Hawkeyes wouldn’t get a second chance.
“Minnesota’s too good,” Iowa coach Tom Davis said. “If you have any soft spots or weaknesses, they have a way of finding them. You just can’t get behind that far with good ball clubs.”
The Gophers finally caught their breath.
“It’s good to play these types of games and to learn from this,” Harris said. “In the future, once we have the lead, we just have to hit the knockout punch and finish a team off.”
The Gophers have said they can play with any team in the country and win. They showed that the first 10 minutes of each half when they outscored Iowa 44-21.
But as quickly as the Gophers built their lead, they quickly lost it. In the final 10 minutes of each half, the Hawkeyes outscored Minnesota 45-24.
“That happens,” Haskins said. “Leads don’t really mean a whole lot other than you want to get a lead and try to hold onto it. The 3-pointers and the shot clock have really changed it.”
The Gophers didn’t change their physical play, which drew numerous comments from Davis earlier in the week. The last time these two met on Jan. 23, Davis said he thought Minnesota played like it belonged in the NFL.
Thomas said the Gophers didn’t even think of playing a less physical game, being fearful the officials might heed some of Davis’ advice and call more fouls against them.
As it turned out, each team was called for 22 fouls.
The win added to the Gophers’ lead in the Big Ten. With Michigan’s loss Sunday, Minnesota now holds a four-game lead on Illinois, Wisconsin, the Wolverines, Purdue and the Hawkeyes. The Gophers play Ohio State and Illinois this week at Williams Arena.

GAME SUMMARY
No. 3 Gophers 32 36 — 68
Iowa 28 28 — 66

Gophers — James 2-4 4-9 8, Jacobson 5-11 0-1 13, J.Thomas 3-8 2-3 8, Jackson 4-12 5-5 13, Harris 3-5 7-8 14, Winter 0-2 0-0 0, C.Thomas 4-6 0-0 10, Lewis 1-5 0-0 2, Tarver 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 18-26 68.
Iowa — Bowen 0-2 6-6 6, Koch 1-4 4-4 6, Rucker 6-14 3-4 15, Woolridge 10-19 2-4 24, McCausland 2-3 0-0 5, Moore 3-5 0-0 6, Helmers 0-0 0-0 0, Luehrsmann 1-2 0-0 2, Simmons 0-0 2-2 2, Bauer 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-49 17

-20 66.
3-Point goals — Minnesota 6-13 (Jacobson 3-5, C.Thomas 2-4, Harris 1-2, Jackson 0-1, Lewis 0-1), Iowa 3-10 (Woolridge 2-7, McCausland 1-2, Moore 0-1). Fouled out — Bowen. MDB

ORebounds — Minnesota 25 (Jacobson 7), Iowa 40 (Moore 7). Assists — Minnesota 9 (Jackson 4), Iowa 9 (Woolridge 4). Total fouls — Minnesota 2

2, Iowa 22. A — 15,500.