IOWA CITY, Iowa - Iowa received a lot of praise after back-to-back impressive wins last week. Pundits suggested the Hawkeyes might be the second-best team in the Big Ten.
Minnesota wasn't paying attention.
The Golden Gophers played better, harder and smarter Thursday night in upending favored Iowa, 64-59, here at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Minnesota avenged a two-point defeat it suffered to the Hawkeyes Jan. 13 in Minneapolis.
"I think we played a good team tonight and they played better than us. I thought we would play better than we did. We didn't," Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. "We hung in there at the end and almost stole it after really not playing very well. So hopefully we'll learn and be better."
If the Hawkeyes did buy into their positive press clippings, shame on them. They're not good enough to just show up and win. And it looked like that's what they expected for much of the rematch with Minnesota.
Iowa turned the ball over 16 times to six by the visitors. The Gophers (16-9, 5-7) enjoyed a 19-4 advantage in points off turnovers. Eight of the nine Hawkeyes who played coughed it up at least once with Mike Gesell, Peter Jok and Aaron White leading the way with three apiece.
The result was the Hawkeyes' fourth lowest scoring output (Texas, Northern Iowa, Wisconsin) of the season and second worst total in conference play. They posted their lowest number in Carver in '14-15.
In addition to fumbling the ball away, Iowa's shot selection may have been its worst since losing 82-50 at first-place Wisconsin on Jan. 20. When those attempts failed to fall Thursday, the Hawkeyes then became tentative and ended up with poor looks. They also raised the ire of McCaffery, who was screaming at them to shoot it when open.
Iowa suffered through a scoring drought of more than eight minutes in the first half. The Gophers put together a 12-0 run during that stretch. The Hawkeyes managed to score the final four points before the intermission to only trail 23-19 at the break.
The home team rallied for a 31-30 lead with 13:30 left in regulation. The border rivals exchanged the lead five times in the next three and a half minutes before Minnesota grabbed control of the game with an 11-point advantage with under five minutes to play.
To Iowa's credit, it didn't give up, unlike many of its fans, who left their seats at Carver with the game in doubt. It had the ball down three with 11 seconds on the clock.
The Hawkeyes raced down the court and Gesell drove the lane. Minnesota center Maurice Walker met him at the basket and took the ball away like a bully from a baby. He sank the free throws after being fouled to seal the win.
While Iowa's junior repeated some poor late-game decisions slashing to the hoop that have plagued him and the team in the past, that play didn't lose this game. There were plenty of mistakes committed throughout the evening.
Jok paced the home team with a career-high 16 points in 31 minutes. He struggled containing Minnesota senior Andre Hollins (20 points) on the other end of the floor, however.
Gopher Coach Richard Pitino employed a taller starting lineup in hopes of slowing Iowa junior Jarrod Uthoff, who burned his team for 22 points in their first meeting. He scored 17 Thursday but it took him two more shots and he had 11 after the intermission.
Gesell was held scoreless but did chip in with four assists and three rebounds. White finished with 13 points and eight rebounds. Starting center Adam Woodbury scored four points and had three rebounds before fouling out.