By Pat Harty
The same thing that ruined last season for the Iowa men’s basketball team had the same effect on the current Iowa team during Sunday’s 92-87 loss to Minnesota at Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
Iowa’s inability to defend on the perimeter, in transition and in the paint proved costly in what was a critical conference game for both teams.
The 19th-ranked Hawkeyes made a spirited comeback late in the game, cutting a 16-point deficit to just four points in the closing minutes.
But that was the closest Iowa would get as the Gophers made five of six free throws in the final 21.9 seconds to secure the victory.
Iowa forward Tyler Cook also had a costly turnover late in the game that came as he tried to dribble the length of the court.
Sunday’s game marked the second time this season that Iowa has allowed at least 90 points in a game. The first time came in a 90-68 loss to Michigan State on Dec. 3rd in East Lansing, Mich.
Iowa fell to 16-5 overall and 5-5 in the Big Ten with the loss, while Minnesota improved to 15-6 and 5-4.
Sophomore center Luka Garza led Iowa in scoring with 25 points, marking the fourth consecutive game in which he has scored at least 20 points.
Junior guard Isaiah Moss made six 3-point baskets and finished with a season-high 23 points, while Cook had 18 points and nine rebounds, but also committed five turnovers.
“There wasn’t any problem with our offense,” Moss said on the Learfield post-game radio show. “We’ve got a lot of scorers. But it’s just at the defensive end. We had too many breakdowns.”
Iowa’s problem on offense was that junior point guard Jordan Bohannon and freshman forward Joe Wieskamp were held to two and three points, respectively.
Bohannon’s points came on a layup late in the game, while Wieskamp scored his points on three free throws.
Minnesota blanketed Bohannon throughout the game and held him to just three field-goal attempts and none from 3-point range.
Iowa shot 60 percent in the first half, but still trailed 55-46 at halftime because the Gophers shot 66 percent in the first half.
The Hawkeyes put up little resistance on defense in the first half as Minnesota repeatedly got in the paint for easy looks.
The Gophers entered Sunday's game averaging less than 70 points per contest, but came close to matching that in the first half, which didn't sit well with Iowa coach Fran McCaffery
Iowa's performance on defense was a sad reminder of last season when Iowa allowed nearly 80 points per game and finished 4-14 in the Big Ten and 14-19 overall.
"It was an interesting game," McCaffery said. "I mean, obviously, disappointed in the loss. This is a team that was averaging in the mid-to-high sixties and we give them 55 in the first half. That is unaccetable. Our defense was not connected. It wasn't physical enough., It wasn't tough enough.
"But because we were scoring, we wre kind of trading baskets."
The current Iowa team already has surpassed its wins totals from last season with records of 16-5 overall and 5-5 in the Big Ten.
But that still doesn’t make the current situation any better.
Iowa has lost back-to-back conference games and now has Big ten leader Michigan coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday.
The first half was either a case of really good offense or really bad defense or a little of both as both teams combined for 105 points, 30 assists, 11 3-point baskets and shot over 60 percent from the field.
The Gophers also had just three turnovers in the first half.
Minnesota power forward Jordan Murphy doesn’t normally shoot 3-pointers, but even he got in the act as he made a trey right before the halftime buzzer to give the Gophers a 55-46 lead at the break.
The 6-foot-7 Murphy also achieved a special milestone in Sunday's game by becoming the Big Ten's second all-time leading rebounder, behind only Jerry Lucas from Ohio State.
Moss made all four of his 3-point baskets in the first half, and had made 13 of his last 16 treys heading into the second half.
Nicholas Baer also provided a spark in the first half by making one 3-point basket and by tipping in two missed shots.
Iowa was leading 37-36 when the Gophers went on a 14-4 scoring run that finally ended when Moss made his fourth trey of the half, cutting the deficit to 50-44 with just over one minute remaining before halftime.