No. 5 Iowa motivated by more than revenge factor against Minnesota
Gophers handed Iowa its only Big Ten loss in overtime on Christmas day
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Considering what happened on Christmas day in Minneapolis, it would be easy to assume that the Iowa men’s basketball team will use revenge as motivation against Minnesota on Sunday.
Fran McCaffery doesn’t necessarily see it that way, however.
And while he hated watching his team blow a seven-point lead with 44 seconds left in regulation before losing 102-95 in overtime at Williams Arena, McCaffery doesn’t think the outcome of that game will have much influence on how his players perform on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It’s like, okay, you’re playing in the Big Ten, we’re ranked in the top five; we want to win a championship, we want to continue to get better,” McCaffery said Saturday morning on a zoom conference. “Everybody wants to play well. And I think I would have an expectation as a player, and I would have an expectation as a coach that when they toss it up we’re going to play really hard.
“But I think there’s this feeling that, well, somebody made a comment that somebody posts on a bulletin board, or you lost a tough game. Okay, but now we’re going to play really, really hard. To me there’s no difference. If you’re going to play really hard, you’re going to play really hard. There’s only one way to play, and that’s really hard. So, that’s expectation that I have. And I think that’s how we’ll perform tomorrow.”
McCaffery seems to be saying that his players shouldn’t have to use revenge as motivation for the Gophers because the game itself should be enough motivation to play hard, and with a purpose.
Every Big Ten game is special and deserves equal respect, maybe even more now so during a global pandemic because nothing is guaranteed.
“I think it’s less than people think,” McCaffery said of the revenge factor. “If something in particular happened in a game that created bad blood, then I think it’s possible you really want to have some revenge. I always come at it this way, as it relates to revenge or bulletin board stuff, you hear that all the time.”
There was no noticeable bad blood or trash talking that spilled out in the first game against Minnesota.
Iowa just unraveled on defense and the Gophers, and most specifically Brandon Johnson, made Iowa pay from 3-point range.
Johnson made eight of Minnesota’s 17 3-point baskets, and most of them came down the stretch in regulation and in overtime.
Iowa left Johnson wide open on some shots, but he still had to make them, and he did with the game on the line..
Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat to your opponent and use the adversity as a learning experience.
Fifth-ranked Iowa seems to have done that, considering it has won three games in a row since the Christmas day collapse, including the last two on the road at Maryland and Rutgers.
Iowa is living up to its preseason hype and expectations, while No. 16 Minnesota, with records of 10-3 overall and 3-3 in the Big Ten, has exceeded expectations, with the win over Iowa part of the reason.
Four Gophers average double figures in scoring led by senior guard Marcus Carr at 21.5 points per game. Carr scored 30 points in the first game against Iowa.
Junior center and Davenport native Liam Robbins, who transferred from Drake last summer, scored 18 points and had four blocks in the first game against Iowa, while Iowa center Luka Garza had 32 points and 17 rebounds.
Minnesota’s biggest problem this season has been an inability to win on the road where its three setbacks have come by an average of 21.3 points, but were also played at three of the top teams in the league (Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan).
Sunday’s game against Iowa will make it four of the top teams that Minnesota has faced on the road.
How Carr performs could go a long way in determining the outcome. He has averaged 23.9 points in Minnesota’s 10 wins, all of which have come at home, and 13.3 points in the three road losses.
“That’s not an easy team to guard,” Fran McCaffery said. “They run good stuff. Carr is a handful, Robbins is a handful. But they’ve got other guys, other weapons. We were not – I use this word all the time – we weren’t connected in that game. We were trying, but we weren’t cohesive. We tended to rely on our ability to score, which happens sometimes with us. But I think defensively since then, we’ve been substantially better.”
Iowa vs. Minnesota
When: Sunday, 1:33 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network
All-time series: Minnesota holds a 107-97 advantage in the series. The 204 meetings are the most Iowa has played against any opponent. The two teams have split the last 10 contests, dating back to 2015. Eight of the last 11 meetings, dating back to 2014, have been decided by seven points or less. Iowa holds a 58-41 advantage in games played in Iowa City and a 22-10 advantage at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa has won 13 of the last 18 meetings in Iowa City, including six of the last seven.