It’s hard to guess which Minnesota men’s basketball team might show up next.
Will it be the hesitant group of young men who lacked aggressiveness and whose on-court rhythm was about as far off as their missed shots? This is the Gopher team that presented itself to the home crowd for most of the first half on Saturday, allowing the visiting Hawkeyes to dictate the tempo of the game.
Or will it be the squad of end-to-end flyers who sliced through the Iowa press with zeal en route to scoring 51 second-half points in a 75-70 victory? If this is the version of the Gophers that comes to play more often, then Minnesota fans can expect to see more wins like the one they saw Saturday.
The dichotomy of the Gophers’ basketball team was on display as Minnesota (11-3 overall, 2-2 in the Big Ten) went from being dominated in the game’s first 15 minutes to a team that simply squashed the Hawkeyes (13-2, 4-1) for the remainder of the game.
After falling behind 19-13 in the first half, the Gophers went on an 11-2 run to take a 24-21 halftime lead. Once the second half commenced, Minnesota pounced on the reeling Hawkeyes, widening their lead and never looking back.
“We were beaten by a very good Minnesota team today,” said Iowa coach Tom Davis, who was coaching his final game at Williams Arena. “They’ve got a great future together.”
The Gophers utilized their superior size, speed and overall athleticism to puncture the Hawkeyes’ pressure defense while stifling Iowa’s efficient and high-percentage offense. Forward Quincy Lewis once again led the way with 29 points, but it was off-guard Kevin Clark’s offensive re-emergence that ultimately sealed Iowa’s fate.
“Once Kevin starts cooking, he can really start making plays for us,” Lewis said. “He just brings so many dimensions to our offense.”
Clark, who finished with 14 points, took advantage of the Gophers’ fast-break opportunities, using his superb down-court speed to break through the Hawkeyes’ defensive formations. When he didn’t get points, he would either draw a foul or dish it off for one of his team-high seven assists.
“That’s my game,” Clark said of his full-court style. “When I see the open court, my eyes light up.”
“He’s very good in the open court,” Gophers’ coach Clem Haskins added. “We like the transition games and the pressure games with Kevin on the court.”
Defensively, Clark completely took Iowa guard Kent McCausland out of the game. McCausland, who had been shooting 60 percent from beyond the arc in Big Ten competition, made only one of four attempts and finished with a paltry seven points.
But Clark wasn’t the only Gopher drawing praise for his defense. The Hawkeyes were smothered from the perimeter and the low post, getting only 18 points from frontcourt starters Guy Rucker, J.R. Koch and Jason Bauer.
“I think Minnesota did a real good job defensively,” Davis said. “They forced us to take shots we didn’t want to take, and they completely took us out of our game.”
It didn’t help matters for Davis when the 6-foot-10 Koch and point guard Dean Oliver fouled out of the game. Oliver, who finished with 24 points, almost single-handedly brought the Hawkeyes back from a 66-53 deficit late in the second half.
The Gophers also wore down Iowa with their depth, using 11 players in various combinations at different stages of the game. Haskins praised the production of his key reserves, including guard Mitch Ohnstad (eight points) and forward/center Antoine Broxsie (four rebounds, two blocks).
“I think the bench was just outstanding,” he said. Haskins added that the bench was invaluable in breaking the Hawkeyes’ press as the game wore on.
“Breaking the press throughout the ball game gave us confidence,” he said. “But we did a much better job breaking the press in the second half and getting baskets.”
Bauer 1-3 1-1 3, Koch 3-3, 2-2 8, Rucker 2-7 3-4 7, Oliver 9-15 3-4 24, McCausland 3-7 0-0 7, Settles 1-3 0-0 2, Price 0-1 0-0 0, Jaacks 1-4 2-2 4, Henderson 2-3 0-0 4, Luehrsmann 1-5 0-1 3, Range 1-7 6-7 8
TOTALS: 24-63 (.381) THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS: 5-16 (.313) REBOUNDS: 42 (Koch 8), ASSISTS: 5 (Price 2)
Lewis 10-23 7-8 29, Tarver 4-6 3-5 11 Pryzbilla 3-5 0-3 6, Clark 5-13 4-6 14, Nathaniel 2-8 2-3 6, Ohnstad 3-6 0-0 8, Simmons 0-1 0-1 0, Stanford 0-0 0-0 0, Broxsie 0-0 1-2 1, Rychart 0-0 0-0 0, Sanden 0-0 0-0 0
TOTALS: 27-62 (.435) THREE-POINT FIELD GOALS: 4-12 (.333) REBOUNDS: 42 (Tarver 7, Pryzbilla 7) ASSISTS: 13 (Clark 7)