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

A chipped tooth, clutch rejection, and a crazy crowd – a look inside Iowa men’s basketball’s comeback against Minnesota

Down 20 points in the second half, Hawkeye first-year center Owen Freeman delivered down the stretch in the second-largest comeback win in program history.
Carly Schrum
Minnesota forward Dawson Garcia goes up for a layup during 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. Garcia scored 18 points and had seven rebounds during the game.

Payton Sandfort and Owen Freeman sat down at the podium for their postgame press conference and embraced each other while grinning from ear to ear. All seemed well, except for one glaring feature – Freeman was missing part of his front tooth. 

“After I got the breakaway dunk at the end of the [first] half, I came down and [Minnesota’s Parker] Fox missed it, caught me with an elbow,” the first-year center said following his 17-point, 14-rebound performance. 

“Did you know exactly when it happened?” Tyler Tachman of The Des Moines Register asked. 

“Not until I spit it out.”

Following the halftime break, Freeman’s game never lost its bite, as he delivered a full-stretch block on a Cam Christie three-pointer with 50 seconds left in the contest to seal the second-largest comeback win in program history. 

It all started when the Hawkeyes were down, 51-34, with just under a minute to go in the first half. Sandfort missed a hook shot in the paint and Freeman followed up with a put-back dunk off the offensive rebound. On the very next trip down the floor, Freeman got the steal and took it to the cup for a dunk. 

“That kind of keeps you in it,” Payton Sandfort said of Freeman, who scored the Hawkeyes’ final eight points of the half. “I mean, we’d have been down 25 if [he] didn’t make those plays. I think that’s a big-time play.”

Iowa came out the break flat, going from being down 13 points to being down 20 just four minutes into the second half. It was at that moment when something clicked for the Hawkeyes. 

The two teams went back and forth some possessions down the floor, but there was no moving of the needle as Iowa still trailed by 19 at the 14:20 mark. Some traction began to form as Josh Dix and Tony Perkins both converted layups within a minute, pushing the Golden Gopher lead down to 15. 

The score differential was stalled for another two minutes before Patrick McCaffery hit a three to cut the Minnesota lead down to 14 – marking the point where the gears really shifted in Iowa’s favor. 

Freeman bullied his way to the basket and put up a standing layup, drawing a goaltending call that shortened the deficit to 12 with 11:02 left to play. The Golden Gophers came down and swung the ball to the left wing, where Mike Mitchell drove it inside and had his floater blocked by Tony Perkins. Patrick McCaffery got the rebound and took it to the cup where he was fouled. He knocked in both free throws to make it a 10-point game. 

McCaffery scored a layup on the next offensive possession to put Iowa within single digits for the first time since 6:03 left in the first half. The gap in score stayed put for two more minutes before Perkins’ layup in the paint pushed it down to seven. The Hawkeyes’ next possession saw Sandfort knock in two free throws after he was fouled –  five-point game. 

Freeman missed the second chance layup in the paint, but Sandfort was there for the putback to make it a three-point game. McCaffery and Sandfort went on to make back-to-back driving layups to put the Hawkeyes up, 78-77 – the first lead since the score read, 2-0, and Hawkeye fans roared to life.

“Truth is, we didn’t give much to cheer about for a while,” head coach Fran McCaffery said of the Black and Gold faithful in Sunday’s game. “Then we did. They really energized the building, energized our guys, it’s very helpful … You need that kind of energy. I’m really appreciative.” 

From there, Iowa held Minnesota to just two made field goals over the last 4:34 of the game, including Freeman’s clutch block, to complete the historic comeback and win the game, 90-85.

 Before his tooth accident, Freeman was the first starter subbed out of the game, as the head coach said the first-year was a “step slow” in the opening minutes. For Fran McCaffery, Freeman’s individual growth was just one facet of the team’s largest comeback since 2018.

“Well, the way comebacks always happen,” he said. “You have to be better defensively, you have to stay the course … You can’t panic … Stay together, stay connected, and keep coming.”

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About the Contributors
Chris Meglio, Sports Reporter
Chris Meglio is a first year student at the University of Iowa studying a double major in sport studies and journalism. He will be working as a sports journalist for The Daily Iowan covering women's volleyball for the fall sports season.
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.