It’s one thing to rip off 10 straight points or a 14-2 run. What No. 5 Iowa did Thursday night at Maryland was more like a football score.
The Hawkeyes trailed 19-9 just over seven minutes into their Big Ten Conference matchup. Then they lowered the boom, outscoring the Terrapins 35-7 over the half’s remainder and cruising from there to an 89-67 decision.
Iowa will look to build off that performance Sunday when it hosts No. 16 Minnesota in another conference clash.
“The more stops we got, the more energy they got,” said Hawkeyes coach Fran McCaffery. “Our activity level and length got us going and we got some fast-break opportunities. It was fun to watch all of those young guys play as they did, but it started with the energy level they played with.”
In upping its record to 10-2 overall and 4-1 in the conference, Iowa canned better than 53 percent of its field-goal tries and drew 22 assists on 36 buckets. Consensus national Player of the Year favorite Luka Garza pumped in a game-high 24 points and Jordan Bohannon gunned in 18, going 6 of 10 from the 3-point line.
The Hawkeyes are fourth nationally in scoring average at 92.4 points per game, but it’s their defense that makes them a more viable candidate for a long postseason run. Opponents are hitting just 41.7 percent of their field-goal attempts and committing nearly 15 turnovers per game.
After struggling early with man-to-man Thursday night, Iowa switched to a zone just before its huge run.
“We went to the zone and the zone was active and we were challenging their shooters,” McCaffery said.
The Hawkeyes might also have motivation on their side on Sunday. They led Minnesota by seven points with 44 seconds remaining in regulation on Christmas night, but blew the lead and then lost 102-95 in overtime as Marcus Carr and Brandon Johnson combined for 14 3-pointers and 56 points.
The Golden Gophers (10-3, 3-3) could have used some of that firepower Wednesday night at unbeaten Michigan. Trailing by just six points at the half, Minnesota simply couldn’t find enough traction offensively in an 82-57 loss.
Giving up 50 second-half points didn’t help, but the Golden Gophers probably wouldn’t have won even had they defended much better. Minnesota converted just 22 of 68 shots from the field, including 7 of 28 from the 3-point line.
“Michigan was very good and very physical defensively, and we weren’t moving the ball well,” said Gophers coach Richard Pitino. “When you have that combination, you’re going to have that type of game.”
Minnesota is playing its seventh straight conference game against a top 25 team and will make it eight in a row on Jan. 16 with a quick rematch at home against Michigan. But it has held up pretty well, despite Wednesday night’s lopsided result.
Carr (21.5 ppg, 5.6 assists) and Drake transfer Liam Robbins, a 7-foot-1 center who’s added 13.5 ppg and 7.3 rebounds, have given the Gophers a solid inside-outside tandem.
–Field Level Media