Gophers find a way in 2 OT vs. Iowa
By DAVE CAMPBELL
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Gophers were overdue for a tight-game victory like this. The Iowa Hawkeyes made them work extra for it.
Jordan Murphy scored a career-high 25 points with 19 rebounds and four blocks, Nate Mason had 25 points and seven assists with only one turnover and Minnesota outlasted Iowa 101-89 in double overtime on Wednesday night.
“They showed great heart, great character to break through,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said after his team’s fourth Big Ten overtime game this season . “Probably the most proud I’ve been since I’ve been here.”
Akeem Springs scored 17 points on 5-for-8 shooting from 3-point range for Minnesota, which hit the 100-point mark for the first time since Dec. 27, 2014, against UNC Wilmington. The Gophers (17-7, 5-6) halted a three-game winning streak for the Hawkeyes (14-11, 6-6) with a season-high 14 blocked shots and a tireless effort down the stretch.
“We were just mentally strong, physically strong, and we just toughed it out and grinded it out,” said Murphy, who made 10 of 13 shots from the floor.
The Gophers took an 11-point to their locker room at the intermission, well aware of the first-half leads they’ve squandered this season in losses to Michigan State (15 points), at Penn State (14 points) and to Maryland (12 points). Pitino showed the team some video clips from the win by Kansas over Kansas State on Monday to highlight some heart and hustle by the Jayhawks as an example of the winning plays needed to pull out a rivalry game like this.
“You could see how fatigued we were in those overtimes, but it’s fun to come out on the winning side of it,” Mason said.
Scoring the first five points in the first overtime wasn’t enough for the Gophers, so they built a much bigger lead in the second one. Amir Coffey’s jump shot, steal, fast break and dunk for a 90-87 lead in a dizzying sequence was the last spark they needed. After Jordan Bohannon missed a 3-pointer, Murphy threw down a dunk to send the crowd into deafening mode.
Peter Jok had 26 of his 28 points after halftime and Isaiah Moss added 19 points for Iowa, which stormed back from a 14-point deficit early in the second half after cranking up the press and the trap on defense to catch the Gophers in a passive state.
Sure enough, after Murphy’s second straight layup put Minnesota in front 56-43, Jok, the conference’s leading scorer, awoke with 10 points toward a 14-0 burst over a mere 2¢ minutes to clench up the game for good. His 3-pointer with 1:35 left in regulation gave the Hawkeyes a 75-73 lead .
“It’s disappointing in a lot of ways, but I thought we showed tremendous fight,” coach Fran McCaffrey said.
Iowa: No matter how many quality opponents the Hawkeyes faced before Christmas, five nonconference losses put their NCAA Tournament bid in a big hole. Back-to-back road games against Maryland and Wisconsin still looming on the schedule will make a big finish difficult. This, then, was a win they really needed.
Minnesota: Chasing an NCAA Tournament appearance for the first time in Pitino’s four seasons, the Gophers have the building blocks in place for a bid if they can finish February strong. Keeping Murphy and Lynch, both of whom fouled out of this one, out of foul trouble would be a key accomplishment.
Springs lost the ball in the waning seconds but got it back for the Gophers on the alternate possession arrow by tying up Brady Ellingson, despite Iowa’s protest of a called timeout. Mason flipped in an off-balance layup with 8.4 seconds remaining to tie the game again.
“You never want to leave the game up for the refs to make a call,” Ellingson said, “so I should’ve got rid of it or called timeout right away.”
McCaffrey cut off a reporter who asked him about the play.
“I can’t. I can’t,” he said. “Just don’t do it.”
FIRST HALF FLOURISH
Minnesota sprinted to intermission on an 18-5 spurt. Springs hit an NBA-range 3-pointer off a press-breaking pass from Mason for a 31-24 lead, before Coffey started a fast break by stealing the ball from Moss and finished with a no-look bounce pass to Mason for the layup.
The Hawkeyes missed four shots in the paint on their final possession of the half, including one blocked by Murphy, whose tip-in at the buzzer gave the Gophers a 40-29 edge. McCaffrey stormed over to scream at Moss for lackadaisical defense.
Minnesota held a moment of silence after a brief highlight video including on-air audio clips for former radio announcer Ray Christensen, who died at age 92 on Sunday. Christensen, a 1949 graduate of the university, began calling football games in 1951 and basketball in 1956 until retiring in 2001.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes travel to Michigan State for a game on Saturday, before consecutive home games against Illinois and Indiana.
Minnesota: The Gophers play at last-place Rutgers on Saturday, before returning home to face Indiana and Michigan next week.