Sam I am! Jacobson rocks the Barn

Todd Zolecki

Sam Jacobson didn’t just take center stage at the Gophers men’s basketball game Thursday night against Iowa. He stole the show.
In a game that determined who would own first place in the Big Ten, Jacobson came through with a career-high 29 points, leading No. 8 Minnesota to a 66-51 win.
Nearly every time Jacobson touched the ball, he did something to rock the Williams Arena crowd. He buried five 3-pointers and tore through the lane in the first half to throw down a dunk.
“Sammy” chants reverberated off the walls from the Gophers’ student section. This was Jacobson’s night. Everybody else just lived in it.
“We heard the chants,” Gophers guard Bobby Jackson said. “The crowd noticed when he wasn’t in there. I guess they knew the man who was hot. They wanted Sam back in there. Hopefully he can keep that up and play that way the rest of the year.”
Jacobson played his best in perhaps Minnesota’s biggest game since the 1990 NCAA tournament. He and his teammates knew this game carried loads of significance — Big Ten title implications. Plus, this game was on ESPN. The SportsCenter highlights from Stuart Scott are bound to say Jacobson was “as cool as the other side of the pillow,” but he wasn’t as collected as he might of looked at the outset.
“Everybody had the jitters a little bit,” Jacobson said. “They don’t want to say it, but it’s there. You’re kidding yourself if it’s not. You’re just up for it.”
He started the game hot and finished that way. In the first half the Gophers struggled on offense, making 11 of 32 shots from the floor. Take Jacobson out of the equation (6-for-7 in the half with 15 points) and Minnesota was 5-for-25.
Jacobson sat the final five minutes of the half and Iowa outscored Minnesota by a basket and went into halftime trailing the Gophers 25-21.
Both sides had offensive performances they’d rather forget. But while the shots didn’t fall, the Gophers played in-your-shirt defense. They forced the Big Ten’s leading scorer, Andre Woolridge, who entered the game averaging 19.8 points per contest, to three first half points.
“We always play defense,” Gophers point guard Eric Harris said. “Offense comes and goes, but we can play defense for 40 minutes. That’s the foundation of this team.”
Iowa coach Tom Davis thought the Gophers were a little too physical. He compared Minnesota’s defensive play to the pressure and contact an NFL quarterback faces. If Woolridge was the quarterback, then he was sacked numerous times with no touchdown passes.
“I wouldn’t say that,” Harris said. “When we’re at home I think we get the benefit of the doubt and the refs don’t call those cheap fouls. I think when we’re at home we’ve got to play physical, and we’ve got to be the aggressor. We can’t let teams come into our place and outplay us.”
Minnesota never looked outplayed. It slowly built its lead to 53-37 with four minutes left in the game on a pair of Jacobson 3-pointers and one from Jackson.
Although Jacobson put up the offensive numbers, Jackson proved again he is this team’s — and maybe the Big Ten’s — most valuable player. Gophers coach Clem Haskins said Jackson’s 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and five steals proved it.
“If that’s not an MVP performance or player of the week performance … dear God, who would deserve one?,” Haskins said. “The key there is great instincts and he’s blessed with something that coaching doesn’t involve. That’s his mom, dad and the grace of God. He’s got a great nose for the ball and heart and desire to do those things.”
Minnesota has only one day to prepare for its next conference battle Saturday against Purdue at Williams.
Haskins warns that Jacobson won’t be able to have the same night he did against Iowa. He knows Boilermakers coach Gene Keady too well. And he knows the Big Ten title always seems to go through Purdue. It has the last three years.
The Gophers are determined not to lose any ground.
“We’re in first place right now,” Harris said. “Our goal is to not let the lead slip away. If we take care of our games at home and play tough on the road, I think we’ll stay on top of the Big Ten.”

GAME SUMMARY
Iowa 21 30 — 51
##8 Gophers 25 41 — 66

Gophers — James 3-6 3-4 9, Jacobson 12-16 0-0 29, J.Thomas 2-4 1-2 5, Jackson 6-12 2-5 15, Harris 0-5 2-2 2, Lewis 2-7 2-4 6, C.Thomas 0-5 0-0 0, Winter 0-2 0-0 0, Tarver 0-2 0-0 0, Archambault 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 25-61 10-17 66.
Iowa — Bowen 3-7 1-2 7, Koch 2-5 0-0 4, Rucker 5-9 0-0 10, Woolridge 3-14 5-7 12, McCausland 2-8 0-0 6, Luehrsmann 0-1 0-0 0, Moore 5-7 0-0 11, Bauer 0-1 1-2 1, Robbinson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-52 7-11 51.
3-Point goals — Iowa 4-13 (McCausland 2-5, Moore 1-2, Woolridge 1-3, Koch 0-1, Bowen 0-2), Minnesota 6-17 (Jacobson 5-6, Jackson 1-4, Harris 0-1, Archambault 0-1, Lewis 0-2, C.Thomas 0-3). Fouled out — None. Rebounds — Iowa 45 (Koch 8), Minnesota 31 (Jackson 9). Assists — Iowa 11 (Woolridge 8), Minnesota 14 (Jackson 6). Total fouls — Iowa 12, Minnesota 15. A — 14,552.