The Minnesota Golden Gophers and the Iowa Hawkeyes met on Thursday night in a matchup of bubble teams. Minnesota is currently outside looking in, but there is enough time for them to have a fringe shot at becoming a tournament team. Iowa has looked great their last few games, but a couple tough losses could put them in the NIT. This was a big game for both teams.
Both offenses came out slow in this one. It was a combination of great defense and bad offense. The Golden Gophers took a slim 23-19 lead into the locker room at the half. The 2nd half was much more exciting. It was back in forth for most of the 2nd half. A combination of steals and timely baskets gave the Golden Gophers an 11 point lead with 3 minutes to play. Iowa didn't give up. They cut it to a one possession deficit late in the game, but they couldn't get the big shot they needed. Minnesota escaped Iowa City with a 64-59 win.
What We Learned
Minnesota stole this one
The Golden Gophers pressed the issue on defense against the Hawkeyes. They finished with 9 steals and forced Iowa into 16 turnovers. Their pressure on defense kept the Hawkeyes on their heels for most of the night. Iowa wasn't able to get any consistent offense going until the last few minutes of the game, but by then it was too late.
Iowa will go as far as Aaron White takes them
White is Iowa's most talented offensive player, but he has a tendency to disappear for stretches. White finished with 13 points, but 6 of those came in the last 3 minutes of the game. It's great that he turned his game on in the clutch, but Iowa needed consistent scoring from him all game. White is the leader of the offense, and the team goes only as far is his offense takes them. Just looking back at Iowa's losses you can see that. He had 9 points in the loss to Northern Iowa, 8 points in a loss to Michigan State, and 7 points in a blowout loss to Wisconsin. Consequently Iowa's biggest wins were during his best games. Iowa has a hard time overcoming mediocre games from White. We saw that on Wednesday night.
Andre Hollins can close out games for Minnesota
After being up by 11 with fewer than 3 minutes to play, the Hawkeyes made it a one possession game. Hollins took matters into his own hands and drove the line to force the foul from Woodburry. He converted both his free throws to give Minnesota a 2 possession lead with under a minute to play. Hollins finished with 20 points to lead all scorers. He was Minnesota's only consistent offense for much of the game.
This was a good win for Minnesota. Any win is a good win for the Golden Gophers right now. They still have some work to do to make the tournament, but this was a good start. Unfortunately, the Golden Gophers have a tough schedule to close out the season. They still have Indiana, Michigan State, and Wisconsin twice. They have to at least win 2 of those 4 games if they think they can make the NCAA Tournament. It's an uphill battle from here, but a road win against a solid Iowa team is a good place to start.
This is one the Hawkeyes will want back. Minnesota is a solid team, but you can't afford to lose against weaker opponents on your own court when you're a bubble team. We thought Iowa turned the corner after a convincing wins last week against Michigan and Maryland, but they showed us otherwise on Thursday night. I still think Iowa has done enough to be a tournament team, but if they for some reason don't make the tournament this is a game they'll look back on. Fortunately the Hawkeyes are through the tough part of their schedule and have very winnable games ahead of them.