A key Big Ten game from two teams fighting up the Big Ten standings turned into a double overtime thriller as the Minnesota Golden Gophers (17-7, 5-6) outlasted the Iowa Hawkeyes (14-11, 6-6) 101-89 (2OT) from Minneapolis. Nate Mason and Jordan Murphy of Minnesota each scored 25 points, while Peter Jok for Iowa dropped 28.
The first 32 minutes showcased a game of wild runs. The Golden Gophers jumped out to a quick early lead, and then Iowa answered to lead 24-22 with just over 6 minutes left in the first half. Minnesota then used a 16-5 run to jump on Iowa 40-29 at intermission.
The Hawkeyes came back in the second half in a wild 14-0 run over just three minutes to take a 13-point deficit and turn it into a one-point advantage. From there, it was back-and-forth through two overtime sessions. The Golden Gophers won the battle of attrition and picked up a massive victory for their NCAA tournament hopes.
Let's see what we learned from the game.
What We Learned:
1. Minnesota Stays in the NCAA Tournament Field.
Most bracket services have the Golden Gophers safely in the NCAA tournament. According to Bracket Matrix, a site that collects and averages over 100 mock tournament fields, Minnesota is an eight seed.
However, the last month has not been kind to the Golden Gophers. Richard Pitino’s team was 1-5 over their last six games and hadn’t won in Williams Arena in a month. Not the formula to stay in their first NCAA tournament field since 2013.
Minnesota could also ill afford to take another sub-100 RPI loss (Iowa is close at No. 96). The Golden Gophers’ RPI and SOS is maybe their best argument for inclusion in the NCAA tournament field.
With the emotional victory, coupled with an earlier road win at Illinois, it looks like Minnesota might be out of the funk of its five-game losing streak. might look back at the end of this season to this game as a key point in returning to the tournament.
2. The Golden Gophers Front Line Deserves more Praise.
When front courts in the Big Ten are discussed, Wisconsin and Purdue immediately jump to mind. This is for good reason, the Big Ten’s top teams possess some of the best front courts players in the country.
Minnesota’s doesn’t come to mind as often, but they’re pretty good too.
The tandem of Jordan Murphy and Reggie Lynch defended and rebounded as well as any front court duo in the Big Ten last night. The two combined for 28 points (25 from Murphy), 31 rebounds, 10 blocks and only 2 turnovers.
Lynch guarded the basket like a hawk, sending Iowa shot attempts all over the arena. Murphy scored and rebounded like a man possessed and was instrumental in the 20 offensive rebounds Minnesota grabbed.
Even reserve forward Eric Curry had a nice game of nine points and three rebounds in 24 minutes.
I am not saying that Minnesota’s front line is as good as the Big Ten’s top teams, but they do deserve more talk. Last night’s play was a prime example of just how good those two are together.
3. Iowa is Ahead of Schedule.
The days of Iowa sneaking up on people should be about over. This team has quickly developed into a solid mid-pack squad capable of beating just about everyone in the Big Ten.
Leading the charge for much of the game were the underclassmen. Freshman guard Isaiah Moss exploded for 19 points on 7-12 shooting. Freshman guard Jordan Bohannon had 12 points, 8 assists and one turnover in 45 minutes of action. Freshman Cordell Pemsl scored 9 points in 22 minutes off the bench. The young Hawkeyes were instrumental in nearing winning their second Big Ten road game this season.
Still, it would be remiss to not mention the efforts of their senior leader, Peter Jok. The Big Ten’s leading scorer only had two at halftime, but exploded for 24 points in the second half. Jok finished with 28 points for the game and 9 rebounds.
Any sustained success will go through the senior, but it is impressive that so many young Hawkeyes entered The Barn and played like seasoned veterans. I am not sure I would want to play this team in the Big Ten Tournament in a month.
After the big home victory, the Golden Gophers will now turn their eyes to an upcoming road game at Rutgers.
Iowa will look to get back on track by traveling to East Lansing to play the Spartans.