Iowa erases 20-point second-half deficit to complete season sweep of Minnesota
Four Iowa players score in double figures in 90-85 victory
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Say what you want about the up-and-down Iowa men’s basketball team, but it showed toughness and determination against Minnesota on Sunday and that resulted in a much-needed 90-85 come-from-behind victory at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Trailing by 20 points in the second half, and with its defense being shredded by Minnesota’s perimeter shooting, Iowa was in danger of falling three games below .500 in league play when senior forward Patrick McCaffery and freshman forward Owen Freeman helped to ignite a comeback that included a 16-0 scoring run.
The son of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, while Freeman finished with 17 points, a career-high 14 rebounds and four blocks.
Patrick McCaffery also made two free throws with 1 minute, 4 seconds remaining to give Iowa an 86-82 lead.
Freeman then blocked a 3-point shot by Gopher guard Cam Christie with less than one minute remaining.
Iowa senior guard Tony Perkins then finally secured the win by making three free throws with 21 seconds remaining. His third free throw gave Iowa an 89-82 lead.
“The way comebacks always happen, you have to be better defensively and you have to stay the course,” Fran McCaffery said when asked how the comeback happened. “And we have an unselfish group, and we have a lot of different guys that can score.
“You can’t panic. In the first half, they made the run and we made a couple uncharacteristic turnovers. We tried to be over-aggressive, I thought. Our decision making in the last 11, 12 minutes was really good. We got better shots. We got to the bonus. We got into the double bonus, and that was huge because we were aggressively driving the ball.”
Freeman finished the game much better than how he started it.
In fact, he was pulled from the game in the opening minutes because Fran McCaffery didn’t like what he saw from his talented freshman.
“Freeman, I thought at the start of the game was a step slow, maybe,” Fran McCaffery said. “And then he took the game over. I’m really proud of him and the way he responded.”
The Hawkeyes improved to 14-10 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten, while Minnesota fell to 15-8 and 6-6.
Iowa also completed the season sweep of the Gophers, winning 86-77 on Jan. 15 in Minneapolis
Minnesota suffered a critical blow when junior forward Dawson Garcia left the game with over 15 minutes left in the second half with an apparent injury and didn’t return.
Garcia still led the Gophers with 18 points, but they all came in the first half.
“I checked in with him twice during the game and he tried to give it a go, but he just couldn’t do it,” Minnesota head coach Ben Johnson said of Garcia. ”
Johnson wasn’t sure how Garcia suffered the injury.
“I just know it was a play on the baseline,” Johnson said. “I don’t know if he tripped on something or if he tripped or if he got hit. I didn’t really see it.’
Minnesota shredded Iowa’s defense in the first half, shooting 54.5 percent from the field, including a blistering 8-for-12 from 3-point range.
The Gophers were leading 51-36 and had the ball in the closing seconds of the first half when Freeman made a steal and then dribbled the length of the court for a dunk.
Minnesota forward Parker Fox then missed a shot from nearly under the basket right before the halftime buzzer, keeping his team’s lead at 51-38 at the break.
Freeman was defending Fox on the shot right before halftime, and it was on that that play when Freeman chipped his tooth.
Freeman was all smiles when he arrived for the post-game press conference as he sort of wore the chipped tooth as badge of honor.
When asked if he knew that he had chipped his tooth, Freeman said:
“Not until I spit it out.”
The Gophers had a 24-6 advantage in points from 3-point range in the first half as Iowa only made 2-of-7 threes.
Garcia led both team with 18 points in the first half on 7-of-8 shooting from the field.
Iowa’s last lead in the first half was 4-2 with 18:32 left in the half.
The Gophers had their way on both ends of the floor in building a 17-point lead in the first half.
Freeman did provide a late spark, however, with his steal and breakaway.
The question is whether that spark would carry to the second half.
It didn’t at first as Iowa fell behind 62-42 before mounting the comeback.
“That’s just kind of who were are and that’s how we’ve been the whole year,” said junior forward Payton Sandfort. “We’ve had our backs against the wall a ton, but we just stressed change the season right now. Change it with effort on the defensive end and that’s kind of where everything changed.
“Our defense was terrible, but they weren’t missing shots, either. So, that didn’t help, but they were wide open. And then we really amped up the intensity and that’s kind of when we were able to make our big run and it started there.”
Patrick McCaffery’s ability to get into the lane for baskets in the second half was crucial to the comeback.
“He was about as good as I’ve seen him,” Payton Sandfort said of the 6-9 Patrick McCaffery. “He made some big-time shots and big-time plays. He was defending.
“And if we can get him like that every night, it’s going to be huge. I’m really happy for him to kind of be back after battling through injuries.”
Payton Sandfort matched Patrick McCaffery with 21 points as Iowa had four players that scored in double figures.
Sunday’s come-from-behind win helped to offset the disappointment from the Iowa women losing at Nebraska on Sunday.
Caitlin Clark also fell short in becoming the NCAA’s all-time scoring leader as she had 31 points in the loss.
The women’s game was played on the video scoreboard at Carver-Hawkeye Arena leading up to the start of the men’s game.
And for a while it looked as if both the men and the women would suffer defeats on Sunday.
But the men refused to wilt under the pressure and would go on to mount what they hope is a season-changing comeback.
Iowa will hit the road again for a game at Maryland on Wednesday.
The Terrapins defeated Iowa 69-67 on Jan. 24 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.