Monson's Team Finds Heart

The Gophers lost their first men's basketball game in 11 tries over the weekend, but this year Dan Monson's team is looking like it will put forth an honest effort.

After 10 consecutive wins, the Gophers were convinced they could compete with anyone. Even after losing at Iowa 66-60 on Jan. 15, that opinion has not been changed.

Facing a very hungry Hawkeye team that had lost its first two conference games, the Gophers simply could not get out of the blocks. They missed 17 of their first 19 shots and fell behind by 16 points in the first half.

But despite the poor start and the big deficit, the Gophers actually outscored the Hawkeyes 53-48 over the last 30 minutes of the game.

The Gophers cut the lead to six points by halftime, but shooting woes plagued them again at the start of the second half. Iowa outscored them 11-2 after the break.

"We weren't focused enough for the first 10 minutes of the game," forward Brent Lawson said. "You can't dig yourself a hole like that in the Big Ten. It's too hard to get out of it. We've got to work on making sure we throw the first punch when we go on the road."

But the team understands what it takes to compete. During the last two years, a Minnesota team that fell into an early hole was destined to stay in it. That's no longer the case for the Gophers, a team that has found more heart than anyone could have imagined.

Will they win the Big Ten? No. Will they finish in the league's upper half? Very questionable.

However, Dan Monson has exorcised the demons. The Gophers play hard every night and play with a purpose. That's an exciting combination and makes this a team to keep an eye on the rest of the season.

Minnesota had a rough shooting game against Iowa, hitting just 17-of-51 shots. However, the Gophers are the third-ranked shooting team in the conference, connecting on 49.6 percent for the season.

— The Gophers are the fourth-best three-point shooting team in the nation, connecting on 39.8 percent of shots from beyond the arc. They fell below 40 percent after hitting just 6-of-21 three-point attempts in 66-60 loss at Iowa.

— The Gophers struggle on the boards, averaging 35.8 rebounds per game — placing them ninth in the Big Ten.

PROBABLE LINEUP: Point guard Brent Lawson, shooting guard Aaron Robinson, center Jeff Hagen, power forward Dan Coleman, guard-forward Vincent Grier.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I wasn't frustrated, I just had an off night. We never got into the flow that we wanted to." — Swingman Vincent Grier, who was held to six points against Iowa, the first time this season that he failed to reach double figures.

UPCOMING GAMES: at Ohio State, Jan. 19; vs. Michigan State, Jan. 22

KEYS: The Gophers lost at Iowa, but showed plenty of heart in coming back after falling behind by 16 points. Minnesota has been a strong shooting team this year, but the Gophers struggled against the Hawkeyes. If their shooting doesn't improve against Ohio State and Michigan State, the Gophers could have major problems.

ROSTER REPORT: Guard-forward Vincent Grier was held to six points in the loss at Iowa, but he is still averaging a team-high 16.6 ppg and connecting on 52.7 percent from the field.

— Forward J'son Stamper is doing a solid job off the bench. He is averaging a team-high 5.1 rebounds per game.

— Center Jeff Hagen is averaging 11.8 ppg — second on the team behind Grier — and is shooting 57.1 percent from the field.

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