IOWA CITY, Iowa - First came the injury. The insult followed.
After building a 13-point lead, Iowa lost one of its leaders and came apart in the second half, dropping a 52-49 decision against Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Thursday night. An announced crowd of 9,663 looked on as a furious final-minute comeback fell short.
Iowa (11-5 overall, 1-2 Big Ten) struggled on the backboards and in taking care of the basketball. The Hawkeyes showed their youth.
"You wouldn't have to be a basketball expert to figure this one out," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. "They get six offensive rebounds in the first and we're up. The finish the game with 18 offensive rebounds. We turn the ball over 17 times.
"There was a stretch in the second half where I thought we were very passive."
Sophomore Jeff Peterson paced the Hawkeyes with 16 points, but handed out just one assist to go with eight turnovers. Jermain Davis grabbed a game-high eight rebounds, but he turned it over three times to just one assist.
"I played horrible," Peterson said. "Eight turnovers is unacceptable."
Peterson also had a pretty good idea why Minnesota outrebounded Iowa, 35-31, including 18-9 on the offensive glass.
"They're just tougher than us," he said. "There's really no excuse for it. Rebounding is not a skill. You just have to be able to hold your man off and get the rebound. Having Cyrus (Tate) out hurt us, but there's no excuse for that. We should have been able to rebound the ball."
The 12-4 advantage on the offensive boards in the second half, helped the Golden Gophers (14-1, 2-1) enjoy a 16-2 spread on points in the paint. Iowa held a 16-8 advantage in the first half. And they played just eight minutes with Tate.
Tate, a senior co-captain, injured his right ankle with about 12 minutes to play in the first half and crumbled to the floor. The starting center was assisted off the floor, went to the trainer's room and tried to participate in halftime warm-ups. He was limping noticeably and could not get back in the game.
Lickliter said that Tate sprained his left ankle and was very sore. The coach was unsure of the severity of the injury. Jake Kelly sprained his left thumb in the game. Peterson revealed for the first time publicly that he had a broken bone in his left wrist that would require surgery after the season.
"Not having Tate in there was huge," Minnesota Coach Tubby Smith said. "Not having a player of his physicality, his rebounding, his poise and experience hurt them. They maybe rushed it a few times, missed some shots and it gave us some momentum."
Peterson said that the wrist injury, suffered at Ohio State, was affecting his play.
"It's alright, though," he said. "I'll be alright."
Iowa, already thin on the inside, saw backup center Jarryd Cole pick up his fourth foul with 11 minutes, 21 second left in the game. Minnesota tied the game at 31-31 with two free throws after the personal. On the next possession, the Gophers grabbed the lead, their first since the 18:02 mark of the game, and would never trail again.
That sequence came in the middle of a 17-2 run by the visitors that gave them a 41-33 lead with under 5:00 to play in the game. Iowa went over 12 minutes without a field goal. That inspired Lickliter to insert leading scorer Anthony Tucker in the game. The freshman played a total of one minute in the three previous games after having been suspended and caught mono.
Although Tucker ranks as a superbly accurate outside shooter, it was Matt Gatens who kept the Hawkeyes in the game. He hit back-to-back 3-pointers to draw his team within four points of the lead.
Tucker closed the deficit to 46-44 with two free throws with 1:17 on the clock. Minnesota stretched it back to four on the other end when a defensive breakdown allowed Travis Busch to drive all the way to the basket for a lay-up.
After an Iowa timeout, Kelly drove in for a short pull-up that missed and the tipped rebound got stuck between the basket and the backboard. The Gophers got the ball on the alternate possession.
The teams came up empty on the next few possessions before Peterson sank a 3-pointer with :05.3 on the clock to cut Minnesota's lead to 50-49. Iowa fouled Lawrence Westbrook, who went to the charity stripe and sank two for a three-point lead. Kelly's desperation 3-pointer bounced off the rim and it was over.
"We were just passive," Kelly said of the second-half swoon. "We weren't aggressive going to the basket. We have to get in the lane and find shooters. That's what we do.
"They were switching on ball and they played small with us. That was a little different, but we adjusted. We should have adjusted a little earlier."
Lickliter took the blame for not coming up with a better counter for the switching on screens.
"Things click on and off it seems in games," Kelly said. "We went on that little lull in the second half. If we could just sustain what we had going in the first half the whole game, I think we can beat anybody."
Iowa grabbed control of the game early despite the absence of Tate. The home team held a 23-10 lead with just under five minutes to play before the intermission. Minnesota went over seven minutes without scoring a point.
Next up for the Hawkeyes is a 10:30 AM contest at Michigan on Sunday. They have to shake off Thursday's tough loss in a hurry.
"We can't dwell on it," Lickliter said. "We need to do more of the stuff that we did for 25, 30 minutes and we better stay away from the things that got us beat. We've got to get better."