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Gophers look to avoid repeat of last year’s debacle in Iowa

It was nearly one year ago, but Gophers junior center Elliott Eliason remembers it well.

Minnesota was coming off of a dramatic overtime win over border-rival and then No. 20 Wisconsin — capped by a postgame locker room dance by former head coach Tubby Smith that saw plenty of views on the web — as it went into Iowa City, Iowa to take on the Hawkeyes.

There were no signs of a let down early. The Gophers jumped out to a 21-5 lead on Iowa.

That didn't last long.

Minnesota was outscored 67-30 the rest of the way en route to what Eliason called an "embarrassing" 72-51 loss to the Hawkeyes.

"We really struggled at Iowa last year," Eliason said. "We came in there and got our butts handed to us."

The circumstances heading into this year's meeting in Iowa are eerily similar.

The Gophers are, once again, coming off of a home win over a ranked opponent — this time a 63-53 win over No. 11 Ohio State. 

But this year is certainly different for Minnesota: new coach, new players, heck, new Eliason — the big man is lightyears ahead of where he was last sesaon.

Things have changed in Iowa, as well. Last year's Hawkeyes squad was medicore at best and failed to make the NCAA Tournament. 

But Iowa returned 13 players this season and looks the part of a legitimate Big Ten title contender.

Gophers head coach richard Pitino said along with Michigan State, Iowa is currently playing the best ball of anyone in the conference.

"I've got a lot of respect for them," Pitino said. "I love their team. They're really good."

Because of the year-to-year differences, Pitino doesn't seem to put much stock into anything that happened last season.

"I just think it's such a different team, different situations," he said.

But while he hadn't watched the tape of last season's contest, he was aware of the infamous debacle.

"I heard about it when I got the job," Pitino said. "I hope it doesn't end like that, certainly."

Eliason appeared determined to make sure it desn't. While he said the masses of congratulatory texts he received after the win over the Buckeyes were great, the focus has shifted to Sunday.

"It's good to have those texts, all the support, but you've got to put that out of your head after the night," he said. "We got that out of the way and it's back to work."


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