Iowa’s zone stymies Gophers again

Minnesota led by 10 points midway through the second half but couldn’t finish.

Gophers Ralph Sampson III drives a ball during a game against Illinois on Jan. 28 at Williams Arena.

Eric Westover, Daily File Photo

Gophers’ Ralph Sampson III drives a ball during a game against Illinois on Jan. 28 at Williams Arena.

by Charlie Armitz

It wasnâÄôt quite déjà vu for the Gophers this time around, but it was close enough.

The result Wednesday night âÄî a 63-59 loss at Iowa âÄî almost exactly mirrored the GophersâÄô 64-62 loss to the Hawkeyes a month ago at Williams Arena.

The first time around, Minnesota grabbed an early 10-point lead and lost it when Iowa switched to a zone defense.

On Wednesday, Minnesota grabbed a late 10-point lead and lost it when Iowa switched to that same zone defense.

What made this loss so surprising, however, were the details.

The Gophers shot 10-for-19 from 3-point range and made several shots from beyond the arc in the last 10 minutes to beat IowaâÄôs zone. In their Jan. 4 loss to the Hawkeyes, they shot 4-for-23 from deep.

Much unlike a month ago, Minnesota (4-6) looked comfortable facing IowaâÄôs zone Wednesday âÄî until the gameâÄôs final few possessions, when turnovers and poor shot selection sparked an unlikely turnaround.

After Oto Osenieks made a 3-pointer and gave the Gophers a 59-54 lead with 3:24 to play, Minnesota missed its final five attempts âÄî all jump shots.

On the other end of the floor, Iowa (4-6) scored nine straight points that included a dunk, a layup, an open 3-pointer and two free throws.

The play that sealed the HawkeyesâÄô win âÄî an uncontested layup by Matt Gatens with eight seconds left âÄî occurred when Minnesota over-helped on the drive and left Gatens open under the basket.

It was the last of a series of defensive breakdowns by the Gophers in the gameâÄôs last 10 minutes. After forcing the Hawkeyes into mostly perimeter shots for the gameâÄôs first 30 minutes, Minnesota wilted against IowaâÄôs dribble penetration down the stretch.

Gatens scored 11 of his game-high 18 points in the final quarter of the game, and Roy Devyn Marble scored five consecutive points to even the score at 59-59 with 1:43 to play.

It was all part of a 28-14 run that turned MinnesotaâÄôs 45-35 lead with 12:21 to play upside down.

The GophersâÄô lack of intensity on defense late in the game may have stemmed from a poor start that was sluggish even by their standards.

Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate all season long, but WednesdayâÄôs opening act was its poorest yet. The Gophers committed nine turnovers in the gameâÄôs first 10 minutes and trailed 15-3 before strong inside play from Ralph Sampson III, and hot shooting made the game competitive.

The Gophers ended the first half on a 24-9 run and took a 3-point lead into the break.

Sampson finished with a team-high 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting, but he had just three rebounds. He also committed the GophersâÄô lone turnover in the last three minutes on an ill-advised pass to Rodney Williams.

MinnesotaâÄôs guard trio of Julian Welch, Austin Hollins and Joe Coleman shot the ball well from outside, but made just 1-of-7 shots from inside the 3-point arc.

Coleman was held scoreless for the first time as a starter, although he did have six rebounds and four assists.

Minnesota will wrap up its two-game road trip at Nebraska (3-6) on Sunday.