As the season winds down, every game will be critical as the Gophers try to make a push for the NCAA Tournament. With No. 19 Iowa traveling to Williams Arena, Minnesota faced another challenge against a quality opponent. They responded well during Sunday’s key conference matchup.
The Gophers led by 16 points in the second half, but Iowa used a late 13-1 run to trim Minnesota’s advantage to four points with 1:34 remaining. Freshman Gabe Kalscheur ended the scoring surge with a tough step-back jumper. The young guard had 19 points, including a clutch shot in the final minutes. One possession later, guard Dupree McBrayer stole the ball and hit a free throw to fuel Minnesota’s 92-87 win. The Gophers defeated Iowa in back-to-back games for the first time since a six-game winning streak from 2008-11.
Iowa entered the game ranking No. 1 in made free throws (403) and attempts (530). They have done an effective job of getting to the line due to their balanced offensive attack and physical low-post play. There are a variety of different ways they can beat opponents, including both inside and beyond the arc. The Gophers didn’t defend the three-point line well, but found a way to move the basketball offensively. They finished the night with 25 assists on 31 made shots. Defensively, they held guards Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp to a combined five points, but Isaiah Moss burst onto the scene for 23 points.
The Gophers answered with a 9-0 run, including a three-pointer by Gabe Kalscheur and a Matz Stockman dunk in the post. Minnesota attacked Iowa in the post and accumulated 14 points in the paint less than eight minutes into the game. The Gophers also rotated the bench frequently and it helped them grab an early eight-point advantage.
Jordan Murphy continued to dominate around the glass and played extremely efficient. He didn’t miss a single shot until the midway point of the second half. Murphy was getting to loose balls and grabbing every board. In the process, he moved into second on the Big Ten’s All-Time Rebounding list, passing Joe Barry Carroll. Murphy had 23 points (7-for-9 shooting), 11 rebounds and six assists. Amir Coffey added 23 points of his own and the Gophers had three players in double figures during Sunday’s win.
Iowa tried to slow the Gophers by deploying a zone defense. The issue: they really struggled in the defensive set. Minnesota eventually settled in by getting the ball to the middle and short corner. This helped the ball movement and prevented possessions from becoming stagnant. During many instances, Minnesota didn’t even need to attack the middle because Iowa was losing players frequently on defense. The Gophers had 17 assists on 21 made shots in the first half and committed just three turnovers. One of the main issues has been Minnesota’s inability to take care of the basketball. They did much better in this category during Sunday’s game and maximized their possessions.
Iowa cut the lead by grabbing two offensive boards and finding Isaiah Moss for an open three-pointer. Minnesota had another scoring outburst when they hit five shots in a seven-attempt span. However, a Jordan Murphy dunk off several passes helped fuel a 7-0 run and put the Gophers up 55-46 at halftime.
With Daniel Oturu missing Sunday’s game, Matz Stockman stepped up with valuable minutes. He assisted on the glass and was a key contributor as Minnesota attacked Iowa’s zone. He had six points and two rebounds in 16 minutes of action.
The one glaring weakness in the game was Minnesota’s ability to defend the arc. Iowa drilled 10 of their 18 three-point attempts. Isaiah Moss had 23 points, including six three-pointers. Moss has scored more than 15 points in his past three matchups against the Gophers, including 32 points at Williams Arena last season. When Minnesota led by more than 12 points in the second half, the margin could have been larger if they were just a step quicker with their close-outs.
The Gophers went on a scoring drought for more than three minutes in the second half, but the offense eventually found a rhythm. Dupree McBrayer made an extra pass to Gabe Kalscheur for a three-pointer and the Gophers led by 11 points with 7:44 remaining. Kalscheur’s performance on both ends of the court was a big reason why Minnesota won this game. He simply doesn’t play like a freshman in big moments. Kalscheur drilled several tough shots and created notable deflections on defense. With all of his energy on both end of the court, he’s providing a major lift for this Gophers team.
In the final stages, Minnesota’s lead was again trimmed, especially when Iowa went into a trap defense. They had two turnovers during a two-minute stretch and Luka Garza drilled a three-pointer to cut the Gophers’ lead to five points with under four minutes remaining. The Gophers missed so many timely free throws in the final minutes, which kept the Hawkeyes within striking distance. With 1:46 remaining, Kalscheur ended a 13-1 Iowa run by hitting a difficult step-back jumper with a hand in his face. Moments later, Dupree McBrayer stole the basketball and hit a free throw to help Minnesota put the game away.
In the process, Minnesota picked up a much-needed quality win against a ranked opponent to bolster their NCAA Tournament resume.
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Tag(s): Gopher Basketball