Iowa men's basketball turns on a dime and buries Minnesota


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Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith couldn’t believe it. He sat in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena media room and tried to figure out just what had happened.

“I don’t know if I’ve seen such a dramatic turnaround in such short time, as a coach of any team I’ve ever had,” he said. “This is about as disappointing a loss as I’ve ever had.”

The turnaround Smith referred to was a 37-point swing from the 12:57 mark of the first half to the final buzzer. The Gophers held a 21-5 lead early in the first half, but the Hawkeyes stormed back and outscored Minnesota, 67-30, the rest of the way to grab a 72-51 victory on Sunday.

Sophomore Aaron White said he never had doubts, even when his team was down by so much.

“The funny thing about the game was we’re down, 21-5, the whole time I’m thinking we’re still going to come back and win the game,” White said. “Everyone on the team thought that; that’s why we came back and executed so well.”

The key to that shift in momentum was the Hawkeyes’ defense. Head coach Fran McCaffery made the switch to a press and then to a zone defense, and it continually gave the Gophers fits. Smith said he wasn’t surprised at the comeback, given the way his team performed.

“Anybody can play well if you give them the ball 17 times, and if you don’t take good shots, if you don’t play with patience, with poise,” Smith said. “[The ball] was like a hot potato. ‘Give it to somebody else, somebody else try it.’ That’s what it became.”

The Hawkeyes forced 17 turnovers in the game, including 12 steals. White said the steals were a big factor, but the press was effective even when it wasn’t directly forcing turnovers.

Iowa guard Devyn Marble agreed and said his team’s defensive adjustments took Minnesota out of its comfort zone.

“When you take [the transition game] away from them, it makes them have to play in the half-court set,” Marble said. “That’s not what they want to do, so our being able to do that and make them have to execute in the half-court set played to our advantage.”

The Hawkeyes also used a balanced offensive attack to bury the Gophers. Five players scored in double figures, led by Marble and White at 15 points each. That level of depth is something freshman Mike Gesell, who scored 11 points, said is a real asset going forward.

“That’s why we’ll be a dangerous team coming down the stretch,” Gesell said. “We have so many different weapons, so many different guys who can do something great each night.”

When Minnesota pulled within 42-35, the defense keyed the Hawkeyes’ final push to pull away. Melsahn Basabe stole a pass, tiptoed the sideline, and found Eric May for a breakaway dunk and a foul. May hit his free throw to give the Black and Gold a 10-point edge, and the team never looked back.

“Mel made such a spectacular play to go dive into the scorer’s table to get me the ball,” May said. “Those plays spark energy, spark a run. And it’s plays like that that allow us to win games like this.”

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