So much for building on their win Wednesday night over No. 20 Wisconsin.
With 12:57 remaining in the first half Minnesota (18-8, 6-7 Big Ten) led Iowa 21-5 after three free throws from Austin Hollins and looked to be well on their way to picking up a decisive road victory. Obviously that didn’t happen, as Iowa closed the half on a 29-8 run and ultimately thrashed the Golden Gophers by the final score of 72-51.
Minnesota shot 36.2% from the field and scored just nine second-chance points (13 offensive rebounds), a number far too low for a team that relies so much on its ability to capitalize on offensive rebounds. Andre Hollins, who scored 21 points against Minnesota, scored just three on Sunday and Rodney Williams didn’t even attempt a shot in his ten minutes of action.
Is Williams, who missed Minnesota’s loss to Illinois last Sunday with a shoulder injury, still dealing with that issue? He did manage to play 36 minutes (ten points, five rebounds) on Wednesday, and it’s clear that the Golden Gophers cannot afford off nights from any of their key players.
Over the last four weeks such nights have been commonplace for Minnesota, who looks nothing like the group that lost just one non-conference game (to then-No. 1 Duke in the Battle 4 Atlantis) and won its first three Big Ten games.
Sunday’s game in Iowa City presented Tubby Smith’s team with an opportunity to build on the momentum that seemed to come with their comeback victory over Wisconsin, relieving some of the pressure that came with losing six of their eight games prior to that result. And to be frank, after a good start the Golden Gophers failed in stunning fashion, regardless of how much they’ve struggled offensively.
Three of Minnesota’s last five games are on the road, beginning with a game at No. 13 Ohio State on Wednesday night. And while the Buckeyes certainly didn’t look good in their loss at Wisconsin, Thad Matta’s team will be in a situation similar to the one Minnesota was in last Wednesday.
And if the Golden Gophers don’t solve the issues that led to Iowa running them out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the second half Ohio State won’t need any late-game heroics.