Struggling Gophers trek to Iowa

Minnesota is looking for its first Big Ten win after starting the year 0-3 in league.

C.J. Spang

Both Minnesota’s men’s basketball team and Iowa are starting to separate themselves from the rest of the Big Ten.

While the 23rd-ranked Hawkeyes are moving upward after their 63-48 upset win over then-No. 6 Illinois, the Gophers are moving in the wrong direction after three consecutive losses.

“The team’s attitude is pretty positive right now, surprisingly,” senior forward J’son Stamper said. “We’re trying to stay as positive as possible. That’s the most important thing to winning some games.”

A positive attitude will be important inside the hostile Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Wednesday night, where the Hawkeyes are a perfect 10-0 this season. Minnesota’s game with Iowa tips off at 7 p.m.

Despite the obvious home-court advantage, Iowa coach Steve Alford doesn’t expect a win to come easily.

“We’re just not good enough to have an average to below-average night and expect to win,” Alford said. “Whether we’re playing in our building or playing in somebody else’s building.”

Iowa (13-4, 2-1 Big Ten) returns all five starters from last year’s squad that finished seventh in the conference, going 7-9 against the rest of the Big Ten and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.

Junior guard Adam Haluska is the Hawkeyes scoring leader, averaging 14.9 points per game. Senior forward Greg Brunner is right behind him at 13.3 points per game, but is also averaging 9.8 rebounds.

Minnesota (9-5, 0-3 Big Ten) is the only Big Ten team without a conference win ” a truly disappointing start after last year’s improbable run to the NCAA Tournament.

But 0-3 could have been 2-1 had the Gophers been able to close out their second half leads.

Against Wisconsin, Minnesota had a one-point lead with 1:44 left in the game, but was unable to hold off the late Badgers charge.

In Saturday’s loss to Purdue, the Gophers had a one-point lead with less than eight minutes to play, but again were unable to close out the game.

“I think we’re doing the right things in the right places,” senior guard Maurice Hargrow said. “But we need to make more game-winning plays… something small that goes unnoticed in the book, but is a big turning point in the game.”

And it is Hargrow and the other seniors who coach Dan Monson expects to make those game-winning plays.

After the second half pounding by Purdue, Monson called out his seniors and said they were the ones who should have stepped up and taken over the game.

In the team’s three conference games they haven’t done much of anything.

Hargrow, senior guard Vincent Grier and senior guard Adam Boone have combined to shoot just 34-102 in those three games, while turning the ball over 22 times.

But Monson is still confident in his seniors.

“I’d just like to see (the seniors) seize the moment a little bit,” Monson said. “I think they’re trying to do the right thing so much they’re not playing.

“They only have 13 games left of their careers here to go ahead and play and I think… they just have to go have fun and do it.”