Iowa’s Haluska ruins Tollackson’s return

Haluska scored a game-high 34 points in his team’s third straight win.

Zach Eisendrath

Junior center Spencer Tollackson’s heroic return to the court was not enough for Minnesota’s men’s basketball team to overtake Iowa and the Big Ten’s leading scorer Wednesday night.

Hawkeyes senior guard Adam Haluska scored a game-high 34 points to lead Iowa to a 91-78 win over the Gophers at Williams Arena – putting a damper on Tollackson’s gutsy comeback.

Tollackson scored 23 points in his first game back after breaking his left hand over a month ago, but it was Haluska that stole the show.

“Adam Haluska had a tremendous game,” Tollackson said. “We let him get going and he was the reason why we lost.”

While Minnesota (9-15 overall, 3-7 Big Ten) shot 63.3 percent from the field on the night, the Gophers’ defense couldn’t do anything to stop Iowa.

Minnesota allowed the Hawkeyes (14-10, 6-4) to shoot 58.2 percent from the floor, but more importantly, connect on 10 of 16 three-pointers.

Haluska drilled six of those threes and seemingly had an answer for the Gophers all night long. While Tollackson was busy keeping Minnesota in the game with 15 first-half points, Haluska nearly matched him with 14.

And when the Gophers were able to turn an 18-point deficit to single digits on several occasions, Haluska was always there to end a run.

“He’s a first team All-Big Ten player and he’s on a heck of a stretch right now,” Iowa coach Steve Alford said. “He’s been consistent all year, but he’s doing other things now.”

Minnesota interim coach Jim Molinari thought his team’s defense was part of the reason Haluska had a field day offensively.

As a man who has tried to instill a defensive identity in his team, Molinari was far from pleased with the season-high 91 points his team surrendered, going as far as calling out his player’s effort and toughness.

“I want to give Iowa credit,” he said. “I think they are making an NCAA (Tournament) run, so they came in here very sharp. (But) I thought we played soft.”

While the rest of the team may have lacked physicality, Tollackson didn’t. From the outset the big man was a factor in the post, going 9-of-13 from the floor and grabbing five rebounds in an unexpected 34 minutes of work. Only junior guard Lawrence McKenzie logged more minutes that Tollackson as McKenzie played the entire 40 minutes.

Despite practicing only thee times in a four-week span, Tollackson said he expected big things from himself.

“My goal was to go out there and not try and just fit in and play spot minutes,” he said. “My goal was to try to play the way that I had been playing before I got hurt.

“Obviously the coaching staff thought that I was doing more good than bad and left me out there.”

Molinari said he warned his team it wouldn’t be able to keep up with Iowa offensively, but with Tollackson back, it appeared the Gophers tried to – eventually losing the defensive identity which won them two of their previous three Big Ten games.

“Our fans deserve better than that,” he said. “They deserve better than teams not even feeling our presence Ö I don’t think we ever made them feel our presence. We never made them uncomfortable.”

And when Molinari delivered that same message to his players after the game, Minnesota couldn’t have agreed more according to Tollackson.

“We owe more to our fans,” he said. “We owe more to each other. And we owe more to the state of Minnesota and the people that support us.”