The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s basketball completes miraculous second-half comeback to take down Minnesota, 90-85

The Hawkeyes stormed back from a 20-point second-half deficit to earn its sixth conference win of the season.
Carly Schrum
Iowa forward Patrick McCaffery smiles after a men’s basketball game between Minnesota and Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Gophers 90-85. McCaffery scored 21 points during the game.

The Iowa men’s basketball team completed its season sweep of Minnesota, this time in far greater dramatic fashion. Down 20 points in the second half, the Hawkeyes took the lead with just over two minutes remaining and never relented, earning a 90-85 victory Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“You have to stay the course,” head coach Fran McCaffery said in his postgame press conference. “We have an unselfish group. We have a lot of different guys that can score. You can’t panic.”

Iowa, which completed its fourth-ever 20-point comeback, per Iowa athletics, is now 13-10 on the season and 6-7 in Big Ten competition. Headling the squad were forwards Payton Sandfort and Patrick McCaffery with 21 points apiece, while center Owen Freeman contributed 17 and a team-high 14 boards. 

Perkins knocked down the first basket of the afternoon – a midrange jumper – but that was essentially the summary of Iowa’s offensive performance in the opening five minutes. The team shot 2-of-8 from the field to fall behind, 10-4, as Minnesota went on an 8-0 scoring run commanded by Dawson Garcia’s six points. 

“We made a couple of uncharacteristic turnovers,” the head coach said. “We tried to be over aggressive.”

After an Iowa timeout, Minnesota continued to connect, splashing two consecutive three-pointers but the Hawkeyes stayed within striking distance. With grad-student forward Ben Krikke confined to the bench with two early fouls, Patrick McCaffery stepped up with a driving lay-in late in the shot clock to make it an 18-14 affair. The senior forward would tack on five more points to his total with an and-one floater and mid-air layup to get Iowa within two for the first time since 2:30 into the contest. 

“He was probably the difference in the game tonight,” Sandfort said of Patrick McCaffery.

Minnesota never even flinched, as guard Mike Mitchell Jr. junior drilled a triple on the ensuing possession. Iowa would cough up the ball on its next two trips down the floor, resulting in four Gopher points. Four Minnesota buckets later and the Gophers found themselves with their largest lead of the game – a 15-point advantage with 3:38 remaining in the first half. 

Hawkeye first-year center Owen Freeman would stem the bleeding with a rim-rocking jam off an in-bounds pass, but his eight points – all slams- – in the final 2:39 was all Iowa could muster as Minnesota took a 51-38 advantage into the break. On Freeman’s final play of the period, he took an elbow to the mouth, resulting in a chipped tooth, which the big man proudly displayed postgame. 

“He told me he felt like a hockey player,” Sandfort said of his teammate.

Over the first 20 minutes of action, Iowa shot 39 percent from the floor compared to Minnesota’s 55 percent clip. Outrebounded 20-19, the Hawkeyes had just six assists to the Gophers’ 14. Six first-half turnovers resulted in 11 Minnesota points. 

The second half didn’t shift any momentum for Iowa, as Minnesota nailed three shots from beyond the arc as it embarked on an 11-6 run in the opening 4:15. Gopher forward Cam Christie’s one-handed jam in transition put his squad ahead, 66-47. 

Early in the second half, Garcia took a hard fall under the basket and did not return to action, finishing with 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

But just when it appeared the game would be a laugher, Iowa went on a 9-0 – seven of which came from Patrick McCaffery as the Hawkeyes found themselves down, 70-62. 

Patrick McCaffery would continue his scoring spree with a swish from downtown, starting a 14-4 run to get the team within one. And after Payton Sandfort’s lefty layup through traffic, the Hawkeyes had the lead for the first time since 1:38 into the game – a far cry from their 20-point deficit in the second half. 

Fran McCaffery said the Hawkeyes made “a lot of good decisions” in the final 12 minutes, adding that his squad took command down low and drew a lot of fouls, helping them get in the double-bonus early on.

Another Sandfort triple ignited the Black and Gold faithful, sparking a frenzy for what had mostly been a solemn atmosphere, as Iowa gained its largest lead of the contest at four.

“It’s a lot harder to make shots when people are screaming at you, and it helps us bring a lot of energy. Shoutout to everybody who was here,” Sandfort complimented the fans.

From that point was a free-throw battle, as each squad shot 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Following an offensive rebound, Patrick McCaffery sunk both his tries and Iowa found itself up, 86-82, with just over a minute to go. 

On the ensuing possession, Christie found himself open on the left wing, only to have a hit shot rejected by the left hand of Freeman, giving Iowa the rock with 31.4 seconds remaining. Following a timeout, Perkins took the inbounds pass, and drew a shooting foul at the top of the key, resulting in three made free throws that would seal the contest.

For Sandfort, the key to success derived from the fundamentals, specifically on the glass, as rebounds were what sparked not just a comeback, but perhaps a change in tide for the season.

“That’s a big deal because, you know, you’re going to miss shots but we need to do a better job getting them back, and we took a big step forward in that today,” he said.

Up next 

 Iowa hits the road for a Valentines’ Day matchup against Maryland on Feb. 14. The Terrapins are 13-11 overall and sit in 12th place in the Big Ten. They previously defeated the Hawkeyes, 69-67, back in Iowa City on Jan. 24. Since then, head coach Kevin Willard’s squad has dropped three of its next four matchups, most recently a 79-75 double-overtime defeat against Ohio State on Feb. 10.

Guard Jahmir Young, who scored Maryland’s final eight points against Iowa, still leads the team with 20.9 points, four assists, and 1.4 steals per game. The Terrapins are anchored on the defensive end by forward Julian Reese, who contributes ten rebounds and 2.1 blocks per contest. 

Tip-off is at 7:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Carly Schrum
Carly Schrum, Photojournalist
Carly is a freshman majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and potentially majoring in sustainability. She works at the Daily Iowan as a photojournalist.