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Cyclones neutralize Grier

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Minnesota men’s basketball junior Vincent Grier didn’t want to be asked about poor shooting Friday.

After the Gophers lost 64-53 to Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the shooting question was met with a glare.

“We had an off night and didn’t hit a lot of shots,” Grier said. “So yeah, our shooting percentage was down.”

But the tongue-in-cheek answer Grier gave underlined the reason the Gophers’ season is now over: With Grier neutralized in the second half, Minnesota had no true second option.

It had been an issue for the Gophers all season – an issue coach Dan Monson said he understood but couldn’t really address.

“The one thing we did a good job with this year is to get the ball inside to get some offensive rhythm off of that,” Monson said. “And it’s a lot harder to get the ball inside against a zone.”

Indeed, the Cyclones’ 2-3 zone contained Minnesota’s second-leading scorer Jeff Hagen. He was limited to just seven points on 3-of-7 shooting and shot just three free throws.

With Hagen unable to get touches or good looks inside, the entire Gophers offense stagnated.

“They started cutting off the back door a little bit,” Grier said, explaining why he thought Minnesota struggled so mightily. “They’ve got a very effective zone, and we haven’t faced it before.”

Grier connected on just seven of 21 shots, including three of 10 in the second half. He had 14 points and nine rebounds in the game but no assists and four turnovers.

And that kind of stat line is exactly what Iowa State coach Wayne Morgan said he dreamed of.

“We tried to take the ball out of Grier’s hands as much as possible,” Morgan said. “And we did a better job of taking him away as the game went on.”

Grier had just two points in the last 16 minutes and took just one shot (which he missed) in a stretch of more than 11 minutes during the middle of the second half.

“Vincent Grier’s game is not suited for busting a zone open,” Monson said. “He’s got to get in the open court, and I thought (Iowa State center Jared) Homan did a great job inside.”

Not only did Homan have seven blocks for Iowa State, including six in the second half, but he altered more of Grier’s drives.

In the end, Grier was simply too inconspicuous down the stretch for the Gophers to pull out a win over a more athletic Cyclones squad.

And that left them with only the satisfaction of knowing they got there.

“Getting here and the experience of it was great, because this was my first time,” Grier said. “Everybody overcame a lot of adversity to get here.”

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