Another road loss for Gophers, 76-73

Murali Balaji

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Iowa coach Tom Davis said that after his team defeated the Gophers 76-73 Wednesday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, he looked at Gophers’ coach Clem Haskins and shook his head.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Davis said.
Haskins and his team are also shaking their heads in disbelief, wondering what could have been in a game with several highly questionable calls against Minnesota.
The loss offset an excellent performance by the tandem of guard Kevin Clark and forward Quincy Lewis, who finished with 23 and 30 points, respectively. The re-emergence of Clark was one of the few things that impressed Haskins.
“Kevin had an excellent game tonight,” he said. “This is his type of game, and he excelled.”
Turnovers hurt the Gophers (14-7 overall, 5-6 in the Big Ten) early. Unable to evade the Hawkeyes press, Minnesota committed eight turnovers in the first ten minutes, leading to easy Iowa buckets in transition.
But it was speedy Iowa guard Dean Oliver who became the catalyst for Iowa’s first-half success. The 5-foot-11 sophomore was torrid, scoring 11 points and setting up the Iowa fast break offense with four steals.
Oliver had help from guards Kent McCausland and Ryan Luehrsmann, both of whom had five points in the first half.
“Dean has been our most consistent player all year,” Davis said. “He just finds a way to offset his mistakes. Tonight, he was handling the ball against a strong Minnesota ballclub.”
Despite the offensive assault by Oliver and Co., the Gophers countered with the Clark-Lewis tandem. Clark, who has struggled to provide a steady complement to Lewis, torched the Iowa transition defense with his blurring speed and quickness for 14 first-half points.
“In the transition, Kevin is a very effective player,” Haskins said.
Clark engineered several fast break attempts off Hawkeyes turnovers and helped the Gophers to a 23-22 lead with 4:45 remaining in the half.
However, Minnesota’s advantage lasted all of 35 seconds, as Iowa regained the lead for good on a Joey Range lay-up.
Then frustration set in for Minnesota. With the Gophers down 28-27, Lewis ripped down a rebound and lobbed the ball ahead to a streaking Simmons, who appeared to be cut down in desperation by Luehrsmann. However, Simmons was whistled for travelling, a call that set Haskins off.
Haskins stormed to the middle of the court, vehemently protesting the call to the officials before being restrained by his assistant coaches Bill Brown and Bobby Jones.
Haskins was assessed a technical, and McCausland’s subsequent free throws gave the Hawkeyes a three point advantage with 2:46 remaining in the half.
“I react. I’m emotional,” Haskins said. “I can see when a guy gets hit. He got hit — this is basketball, not football. I don’t see them out there with pads and helmets on.”
But the Gophers’ problems didn’t end there. Minnesota center Kyle Sanden beamed the ball at Iowa center Jacob Jaacks after Jaacks tapped the ball away during the inbounds. Sanden’s action drew another technical.
“He called a timeout, and I just tapped the ball away,” Jaacks said. “I guess he didn’t like that too much.”
Despite being hindered by technical fouls, the Gophers still finished the half trailing Iowa by only four points, thanks to a last-second prayer shot by guard Terrance Simmons. Simmons caught the inbounds from Lewis, split McCausland and guard Jason Bauer, and lofted a shot from half-court.
After the intermission, Iowa surged to 45-35 lead, using the inside game of Jaacks, J.R. Koch and Range. But Minnesota, using an exhausting variety of combinations on the floor, scratched and clawed their way back into the game, thanks to a renewed offensive barrage by the Clark-Lewis tandem.
Minnesota tied the game at 57-57 with 7:44 to go on a three-point conversion by Clark. That was followed by a trey by guard Mitch Ohnstad, which gave the Gophers a 60-57 lead.
The Gophers began to gain momentum, breaking down Iowa’s hand-checking defense. With center Joel Przybilla and forward Dusty Rychart controlling the offensive boards, the Gophers used the halfcourt set to begin scoring at will against the Hawkeyes.
Lewis’ three with 3:56 to go gave the Gophers a 69-64 lead, their largest advantage since the start of the game. The Hawkeyes had other plans, regaining the lead with 2:27 remaining after Koch hit two free throws.
McCausland’s three made it 73-71 with less than a minute remaining, and a goaltending call against Przybilla gave Iowa a four-point lead, and for all intents and purposes, the victory.
“You’ve got to give Iowa credit,” Haskins said. “They hung in there and played hard for 40 minutes.”
With the loss, Minnesota will look to regroup at home against Michigan State, one of the top teams in the country and the run-away favorite to win the Big Ten.