Iowa men’s basketball ratchets defensive intensity up, downs Minnesota, 71-59

The Hawkeyes surrendered just 21 points in the second half of Sunday’s contest at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Iowa men’s basketball guard Ahron Ulis dribbles the ball during a game against Minnesota on Feb. 6, 2022. The Hawkeyes beat the Golden Gophers, 71-59.

Ben Palya, Sports Reporter

When the second half of Sunday’s Iowa-Minnesota men’s basketball game began, the Hawkeyes faced a four-point deficit. A buzzer beater at the end of the first half gave the Golden Gophers a 38-34 lead after 20 minutes of action.

Iowa began to wrestle momentum away from Minnesota with just over 14 minutes on the game clock. A layup from Iowa forward Keegan Murray cut Minnesota’s lead to one.

Then, the Hawkeyes forced two Gopher shot clock violations in less than a minute. Iowa scored five points off Minnesota’s consecutive turnovers.

Once the Hawkeyes’ grabbed a 51-47 lead, they never looked back. Iowa clamped down defensively, allowing just 10 points in the game’s final 12 minutes.

The Hawkeyes outscored the Golden Gophers, 20-10, during that stretch. Iowa ultimately won the game, 71-59.

“The two keys on the ball were Jordan Bohannon, defensively — his pressure defensively and aggressiveness guarding the ball was terrific — and [sophomore guard] Ahron Ulis,” said Billy Taylor, who was the Hawkeyes’ acting head coach Sunday.

Taylor was subbing for Iowa’s regular head coach Fran McCaffery, who tested positive for COVID-19 Feb. 4.

The Golden Gophers’ 21-point second half Sunday followed a first half that saw Minnesota go 5-of-9 from 3-point range.

Minnesota guards Payton Willis and Luke Loewe combined for a whopping 22 points in half No. 1.The Gophers shot 7-of-30 from the field and 4-of-14 from distance in the second half.

“At halftime, we decided we needed to take it to heart that we’re not going to let the guy on the other side of the ball score on us,” Murray said postgame. “That played into the effort in the second half.” 

Minnesota turned the ball over six more times than Iowa did Sunday. The Hawkeyes subsequently scored 17 points off turnovers.

Iowa’s defensive resurgence in the second half also helped its offense. The Hawkeyes shot 51.6 percent from the floor in half No. 2, a marked improvement over the 38.2 shooting percentage they posted in the first.

This season, the Hawkeyes are 10-2 when they hold their opponents to fewer than 73 points. Iowa currently boasts 15-7 overall and 5-6 conference records.

The Hawkeyes are now in ninth place in the 14-team Big Ten. In ESPN’s latest edition of “Bracketology,” Iowa is projected to be a seven seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa’s next game will come against 11-11 Maryland at the Xfinity Center in College Park. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:01 p.m.

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