By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – With just eight conference games remaining, and with his team two games below .500 in conference play, graduate transfer forward Ben Krikke knows exactly what time it is for the Iowa men’s basketball team.
“It’s definitely go-time,” Krikke said Friday. “Unfortunately, we’ve lost a few games that we feel like we should have won. And there’s a little bit of pressure from that standpoint.
“But I’m still encouraged. I still have a positive mindset and I think the whole team does as well. I’m still very confident and there’s a few things we need to clean up and kind of address.”
Iowa will look to get back on the winning track when it faces Minnesota at 2:07 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa has lost four of its last six Big Ten games, including mostly recently an 89-79 setback at Penn State this past Thursday.
Minnesota, on the other hand, has won three straight games and is in position to make the NCAA Tournament under third-year head coach Ben Johnson with records of 6-5 in league play at 15-7 overall.
“The key to it all is putting pieces that fit,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Minnesota’s turnaround. “It’s different now putting a team together because there’s plenty of players available, more than ever. And we’ve all seen it. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t work.
“And, obviously, Ben knows what he’s doing as a coach. He knows how to coach. He has a resume. He’s worked at a lot of different places. So, you know he’s going to be able to do a good job there. But you’ve got to have the players.”
Minnesota has three players averaging in double figures in points with forward Dawson Garcia leading the way at 17.3 point per game.
Iowa has four players averaging in double figures, and six players that average from 15.5 to 7.4 points per game.
The Hawkeyes won the first game against Minnesota 86-77 on Jan. 15 in Minneapolis as Krikke led four Iowa players in double figure with 25 points. Iowa has won five straight games against Minnesota.
Krikke used his free Covid year to transfer to Iowa after having played his first four seasons for Valparaiso where he led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring last season.
He is currently averaging 15.0 points per game for the Hawkeyes, and he had 22 in the loss at Penn State on Thursday.
And even though Iowa has had some frustrating losses, Krikke is enjoying his brief time as a Hawkeye, so much so, that he wishes it would last longer.
“It kind of makes me sad,” honestly,” Krikke said of this being his last year playing college basketball. “I’ve loved playing college basketball and it’s been a dream of mine. I couldn’t be more grateful and thankful for this opportunity.
“I wasn’t guaranteed a fifth year coming in and just having this extra year has been great for me. I’ll be sad to leave. I wish I had a couple more years.”
Minnesota (15-7, 6-5) vs. Iowa (13-10, 5-7)
When: Sunday, 2:07 p.m.
Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena
TV: Big Ten Network
Radio: Iowa Radio Network
All-time series: Monday’s meeting is the 210th in the all-time series between Iowa and Minnesota that began in 1902. The Hawkeyes hold a 108-101 advantage all-time. Iowa has won five straight and seven of the last eight meetings. The Hawkeyes are looking to complete the season sweep for a third straight season.
The Hawkeyes’ five-game winning streak is the longest in the series since 1973-75. Iowa has won the last five games against Minnesota in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Gophers’ last victory came on Feb. 12, 2015 — a 64-59 win.