Minnesota appeared well on its way to a second consecutive, résumé-building victory through almost 19 minutes Sunday afternoon in Iowa City, Iowa.
Then the No. 14 Hawkeyes demonstrated the depth and dominance they’ve utilized all season.
After Minnesota built a 43-33 lead late in the first half, Iowa outscored the Gophers 61-30 the rest of the way, eventually winning 94-73.
“We certainly were humbled today, and maybe we needed it,” Gophers head coach Richard Pitino told reporters after the game. “I sensed a little bit that we were losing that underdog mentality that we’ve had all year.”
Andre Hollins got the Gophers off to their hot start. The junior guard scored 18 first-half points, but he was held to two points in the final 20 minutes.
“They certainly just decided to shut him down [in the second half], and I think they did it in a variety of ways,” Pitino said.
It was a polar-opposite performance for the Hawkeyes’ stars. Junior forward Aaron White and senior guard Roy Devyn Marble combined for one first-half point.
But the duo exploded in the second half. White finished with 18 points, and Marble chipped in 16.
The Gophers had the momentum for much of the first half, but an 8-0 Iowa run on the strength of two 3-pointers by Josh Oglesby trimmed the gap and changed the game heading into the locker room.
Oglesby was lights out all game for Iowa. The junior guard finished with 17 points on 5-for-7 shooting from deep.
“They’ve got tremendous depth,” Pitino said. “They keep coming with guys.”
Minnesota struggled all day with foul trouble. Both junior center Elliott Eliason and junior guard DeAndre Mathieu fouled
That duo, which had been effective at the start of Big Ten play, was limited Sunday. Mathieu finished with six points and five assists, while Eliason had seven points and six boards.
A bright spot for the Gophers was the re-emergence of senior guard Austin Hollins. Hollins, who had struggled up to this point in the Big Ten, finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and five
Pitino was disappointed with his team’s defensive effort — the 94 points were the most the Gophers had allowed all season.
“We couldn’t get stops,” he said. “We went man, we went zone, but there was no defense I could devise to get stops tonight. We were not willing to do it.”
He was also quick to credit Iowa.
“I think they just totally kicked our butt and played really well,” he said.
Gophers top Ohio State
The loss to Iowa served as a letdown after the Gophers earned Pitino his first signature win as their head coach Thursday.
Minnesota rode a big performance from Eliason and used some crucial plays down the stretch to pull away late en route to a 63-53 win over No. 11 Ohio State at Williams Arena.
Eliason said the Gophers knew the Buckeyes would be hungry coming off back-to-back losses.
He was even hungrier.
Eliason stole the show down low and finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds. It was his sixth double-double of the season and the fourth time in five Big Ten contests that he snagged double-digit rebounds.
“Eliason impacted the game in so many ways,” Pitino said. “He has gotten so much better, and he deserves all the credit.”
Ohio State’s perimeter defense locked down the Gophers from the outside most of the night. Minnesota shot just 3-for-14 from downtown.
But for the first time all season, the Gophers were able to establish an interior presence from multiple sources, headed by a career night from Eliason.
“We knew that if we didn’t score inside, it was going to be a long night,” Eliason said.
Minnesota also got a great effort from Mathieu, who scored 13 points and dished out five assists.
He completely outplayed Ohio State All-Big Ten point guard Aaron Craft, who finished with seven points, four assists and five turnovers.
The Gophers will welcome Wisconsin to Williams Arena on Wednesday to wrap up a grueling stretch against four straight ranked opponents.
“We’ve got another tough game,” Pitino told reporters after the Iowa loss. “That’s the beauty of this league.”