Seniors have their night vs. Iowa

Minnesota won its eighth Big Ten game 65-57 largely thanks to its three seniors.

Bob Wothe

It wasn’t a perfect start, but it was a fitting ending for the seniors on Minnesota’s men’s basketball team.

In their last home game, Jeff Hagen, Brent Lawson and Aaron Robinson opened the game shooting 1-of-11 from the field.

But they fought through the adversity one more time at Williams Arena.

The Gophers (18-9, 8-6 Big Ten) fought back from early five-point deficits in both halves to build a 14-point lead and held on down the stretch to beat Iowa 65-57 in front of a crowd of 12,659.

“It just feels really good; that’s all I can say,” Lawson said. “We didn’t want to go out on a loss – especially with the post-game ceremony – and we all just played our hearts out in our last game.”

But it almost wasn’t such a happy ceremony.

After building its 14-point lead, Minnesota did its customary disappearing act down the stretch.

The Gophers took their largest lead at 57-43 after Robinson’s fourth three-pointer of the second half with 3:25 left.

But thanks to three straight Gophers misses on the front ends of bonuses, the Hawkeyes (16-10, 4-9) closed to within six at 61-55.

Iowa even had a pair of chances to bring the game within three points but missed two three-pointers with approximately a minute to go.

Robinson and J’son Stamper then hit four straight free throws to push the lead to 10 with 10 seconds left, and coach Dan Monson finally was able to pull his seniors off the floor to a standing ovation.

“All three seniors went out the way they should,” Monson said. “Senior day is never the same as any other game, and it was obvious that we had a lot of nervous energy. But the defense helped us hang in there until shots started falling, and our rebounding was big, too.

Nobody was bigger on the boards than Hagen, who grabbed 17 total and 11 offensive rebounds to go along with his 14 points.

The Gophers’ 20 offensive rebounds allowed them to hoist up 65 shots, which is two more than their previous season high of 63.

Minnesota’s rebounders didn’t key the team’s 26-7 second-half run, though.

It was 5-foot-10-inch Robinson who came up big.

Robinson hit a three, collected a steal, threw an alley-oop to Vincent Grier, assisted Lawson on a fast break and then hit another three to cap a torrid 10-0 run that turned a 36-31 deficit into a 41-36 lead.

It was Robinson’s best game in quite some time, as he shot 4-of-9 on three-pointers and scored 14 points.

“We become very difficult to defend when Aaron starts hitting his outside shoots,” Hagen said before sounding a reflective note on his career. “I’ve fulfilled my dream of playing here, and it was a great way to go out this way and know we have this much support.”