After going .500 in non-conference play to open the season, the Gophers men's basketball team began their Big Ten schedule on Monday hoping to win their first road game of the season.
However, inconsistency issues re-emerged for Minnesota (4-5, 0-1 Big Ten), who struggled to find outside shooting in a 72-52 defeat. Facing an Iowa Hawkeyes (7-3, 1-1 Big Ten) team that conceded 103 points in their conference opener against No. 4 Michigan, the Gophers' offense could not find its range, shooting 6-25 on 3-point shots.
"We did not play real well across the board," head coach Richard Pitino told the media. "When your guards, and it's not specifically their fault, but when you shoot 3-29 it's really hard and then 15 turnovers, offensively we were totally out of rhythm."
Iowa's up-tempo offense proved challenging for the Gophers in the game's opening minutes. Finding open looks in transition, sophomore Joe Wieskamp made three 3-pointers for the Hawkeyes before the evening's first media time out.
After weathering the initial offensive burst from Iowa, a 14-6 Minnesota run put the Gophers in front 20-19 for their first lead since the opening seconds. Leading the scoring efforts were the front court starters, senior Alihan Demir and sophomore Daniel Oturu, who combined for 15 of Minnesota's first 20 points.
Suddenly, the Gophers' offense hit a wall, not managing to score over a 5:10 stretch. The backcourt's struggles were particularly pronounced for Minnesota, as the team's starting guards went 1-16 on field goal attempts in the first half. Iowa outscored the Gophers by a two-to-one margin over the final 10 minutes of the first half to take a 37-29 lead at the break.
Momentum stayed squarely with Iowa after intermission as the Hawkeyes quickly stretched their lead to 51-34 in the second half's opening minutes. From there, Minnesota could never pull within striking distance as Iowa cruised to victory. Sophomore Gabe Kalscheur and redshirt sophomore Marcus Carr combined for only two points and missed all 12 of their 3-point shots.
Turning the ball over 15 times, the Gophers gave Iowa's offense plenty of opportunities to capitalize in transition. The Hawkeyes outscored Minnesota in fast break points 18-4 on Monday.
"They just fly up the court and if you don't communicate you're in trouble," Pitino told the media. "They don't have a problem with spotting up quickly or posing up early."
Oturu stood out as a bright spot for Minnesota on an otherwise difficult night. The big man scored 22 points an collected 12 rebounds. Demir was the only other Gopher to finish in double-figure scoring with 13 points.
"He did some good things," Pitino told the media of Demir. "He offensive rebounded well, started kicking the ball out. I thought he played well, we just need everybody to be a little more in sync."
Making 5-7 3-point shots, Wieskamp finished with a game-high 23 points. Coming off a 44-point outburst against Michigan, junior Luka Garza scored 21 for Iowa against the Gophers, also finishing with a double-double with 10 rebounds.
"As much as we did a good job on Garza in the first half, Wieskamp killed us early," Pitino told the media. "They have good balance on offense and they just keep coming at you."
Moving forward, the schedule does not get any easier for Minnesota. The Gophers host No. 3 Ohio State on Sunday before a neutral-site game against Oklahoma State in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Dec. 21.
"We have a lot of work to do, we have to get better," Pitino told the media. "Fortunately it's still early and fortunately we have a lot of practice ahead of us."