Gophers squander chances at Iowa

Bob Wothe

IOWA CITY, Iowa – Minnesota’s men’s basketball team had a genuine opportunity Saturday.

The Gophers could have won their first nonvacated road game over a ranked team since 1985.

They could have pushed their winning streak to 11 games.

And just maybe, with a win over the struggling Hawkeyes, the Gophers could have been able to sneak into the top 25.

But offensive ineptness plagued the Gophers (12-4, 2-1 Big Ten) as they opened the game shooting 3-for-21 from the field and dug themselves a 16-point hole in the first half en route to a 66-60 loss at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“We can’t play like that on the road and expect to win,” Minnesota coach Dan Monson said. “We just didn’t have any offensive consistency.”

For the game, Minnesota shot 33.3 percent from the field, and leading scorer Jeff Hagen shot just 3-of-11 from the field on his way to 15 points.

The Hawkeyes (13-3, 1-2) didn’t fare much better after bolting out to their early lead. They connected on just six field goals in the second half and none in the final 10:45.

But Iowa hit 18 free throws in that time span and was able to hold off a Minnesota squad that had 20 turnovers on the day.

To put it bluntly, it was another ugly affair.

“We knew we had to come out with high intensity, but we didn’t,” said Vincent Grier, who had been averaging 17.3 points per game before turning in a paltry four against the Hawkeyes. “We came out kind of off and were never able to get our flow.”

Minnesota did have good spurts, however.

After trailing 29-13, the Gophers went on a 13-3 run to close the half trailing only 32-26.

And even after falling back into a 43-28 hole at the start of the second half because of the same offensive ineptitude that hurt it in the first, Minnesota was able to whittle the lead down to a manageable eight points just five minutes later.

But the Gophers never got closer than six the rest of the way, leaving a team that had a great deal to gain without much to be proud of in the loss.

And with upcoming games against Ohio State (12-5, 1-2) and Michigan State (10-2, 2-0), Minnesota’s season outlook isn’t as rosy as it would have appeared with a win.

“We just came out flat and not focused,” said Brent Lawson, who was 0-for-4 from the field and finished with just three points. “We played terrible, but we’ve got to learn from our mistakes and get ready for Ohio State.”