Unselfish Hawkeyes fight off late Gopher run for fourth straight win

Iowa’s 18-point lead in the second half dwindled down to five, but the team recovered to secure the victory.


Shivansh Ahuja

Iowa guard Jordan Bohannon looks to pass during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Minnesota on Sunday.

Robert Read, Pregame Editor

In Minneapolis on Christmas, the Iowa men’s basketball team led Minnesota by seven points with 44 seconds remaining, only to lose by seven in overtime. On Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the team’s 18-point lead in the second half dwindled down to five with just under five minutes to play.

But this Minnesota comeback attempt fell short.

The No. 5 Hawkeyes defeated the 16th-ranked Gophers, 86-71, to improve to 11-2 on the season and win their ninth consecutive meeting with a ranked team at home.

“We weren’t going to let that happen again,” said Iowa center Luka Garza, who finished with a game-high 33 points.

After Garza scored a layup in transition to push Iowa’s lead to 18, Minnesota went on a 22-9 run, forcing Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery to call timeout. During that stretch, Iowa missed its open shots, and Minnesota hit its contested ones.

Rather than getting red in the face while addressing his team, McCaffery simply told his players what they needed to do in order to accomplish what they couldn’t only four games ago.

“Stay the course, remain confident, move the ball, we’ll get a good shot,” McCaffery said. “Go down, be active defensively, give them one contested shot. You don’t have to overthink it there — start screaming at guys and diagramming something ingenious that may not work.

“I trust my guys. We’ve got a veteran group out there. And they took [the lead] from five to 15.”

Iowa forward Luka Garza lays the ball up during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Minnesota at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. The Hawkeyes defeated the Golden Gophers, 86-71. (Shivansh Ahuja/The Daily Iowan) (Shivansh Ahuja)

Out of the timeout, Garza scored an easy layup. Then Jordan Bohannon nailed two free throws on the next trip down. Then Jack Nunge sunk a jump shot. By the time Bohannon drilled a 3-pointer with 31 seconds remaining, Iowa led by 15 points, derailing any Gopher hopes of upset victory No. 2 over the Hawkeyes.

Bohannon’s final shot deep also capped a career day for the senior.

The Marion, Iowa, native scored 19 points (4-of-5 on 3-pointers) and tallied a career high 14 assists and seven rebounds. This all came while committing zero turnovers and running the point in Iowa’s transition offense.

“He has always really been tremendous in our fast break,” McCaffery said. “From the opening tip today, he was pushing the ball and he was finding people. Then some things opened up for him. I thought his decisions — when to shoot, when to drive, when to move it, and when to move it into the post — were practically perfect.”

“I haven’t seen too many lines like that.”

Behind Bohannon’s commanding play, Iowa assisted on 27 of its 31 shots on Sunday. After that performance, the Hawkeyes lead the nation in assists per game and assist-to-turnover ratio.

“Our guards are really unselfish,” Garza said. “They push the ball and are looking for others. When we get out in transition, that’s when we are at our best. Jordan was really finding me in the right spots, and that takes a lot of the double teams away. When we’re pushing that fast, they can’t adjust to that.”

Walking off the court at Williams Arena, Bohannon said Minnesota players were vocal with their satisfaction of having just defeated the Hawkeyes.

Iowa left Minnesota on Christmas 1-1 in Big Ten play. The Hawkeyes have won four straight since then and now sit at 5-1 in the conference, with a victory against the only team to defeat them.

“It was tough playing on Christmas and not getting the win,” Bohannon said. “We felt like we had them and we let that slip away. That provided a spark for us, a fire internally for us to come out and prove something…. We knew that if we could take care of business here, and then throughout the season, then we can be really special.”

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