Minnesota Stumbles at Iowa, 63-59

Go Gophers! Junior guard Julian Welch had 12 points and six assists in the loss at Iowa.
Go Gophers!
Junior guard Julian Welch had 12 points and six assists in the loss at Iowa.
Go Gophers!

Feb. 1, 2012

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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Minnesota started out cold, and finished flat on Wednesday night at Iowa, falling to the Hawkeyes by a score of 63-59 before a crowd of 11,232 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The loss was the Gophers' second this season to the Hawkeyes (12-11, 4-6), who snapped a three-game losing streak and pulled into a tie with Minnesota (16-7, 4-6) in the Big Ten standings. Prior to this season, Minnesota had won six-straight versus Iowa.

Minnesota was led by senior forward Ralph Sampson III, who scored 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field. Junior guard Julian Welch added 12 points, six assists, and five rebounds, while sophomore guard Austin Hollins had 11 points and five boards.

But the Hawkeyes' combination of Matt Gatens and Roy Devyn Marble helped Iowa rally from a 10-point second-half deficit after the Hawkeyes had blown a 12-point lead of their own in the first half. Gatens finished with a game-high 18 points, and Marble tallied five of his 12 points in the final 2:29 to help secure Iowa's first regular season sweep of the Gophers since 2007.

The Gophers got off to a sluggish start to fall behind, 15-3. Nine minutes into the game, Minnesota had nine turnovers and had made just 1-of-8 field goals.

Meanwhile, Iowa had turned the ball over five times, but the Hawkeyes were able to make 6-of-12 field goals to establish the early lead.

Minnesota's offense finally started to click midway through the first half. Sampson, who made the Gophers' first three field goals of the game, scored five points to cut it to 17-8. Then Welch added a three-point play and Austin Hollins knocked down a trey, and the Gophers were back within four points, 18-14.

Marble scored on a layup to put the Hawkeyes up 20-14, but the Gophers kept chipping away at the lead. Welch swished a deep three-pointer to cut the deficit to three points, and Williams used a nice touch on a short jumper to cut it to 20-19.

Melsahn Basabe came off the bench to score on back-to-back possessions to keep the Hawkeyes in the lead, but Williams scored on a layup from behind the basket to cut it to 22-21 and then made it seven-straight points from the junior by hitting a three to tie the game at 24-24.

Minnesota took its first lead of the night when Andre Hollins made a three with just more than one minute remaining, which sent the Gophers to the break with a 27-24 advantage.

After its dismal start, Minnesota rebounded to finish the half at 10-of-24 (.417) from the field, while Iowa made just four of its final 17 attempts to finish at 10-of-29. Williams and Sampson each had seven points at the break for the Gophers.

After Iowa started the second half by tying the score at 27-27, Sampson scored on a jumper and a dunk to put the Gophers up 31-28, and Austin Hollins made a three for a six-point lead.

Gatens came up with a steal and drove the length of the court for a dunk, cutting the Gophers' lead to 36-33 and sparking the home crowd. But sophomore guard Chip Armelin hushed those fans by making a key three-pointer for a 39-33 edge.

The Gophers kept building their lead, with Armelin driving for a layup, Williams adding a pair of free throws, and freshman guard Andre Hollins pulling up in the lane for a jumper to give Minnesota its first double-digit lead at 45-35.

Iowa quickly responded with a 9-0 run, capped by a three-pointer from Gatens to bring the crowd back to life and cut it to 45-44. But, once again, the Gophers silenced the crowd. This time, it was Welch who came up with a clutch shot, making a three from the left wing to make it 48-44 with 8:41 remaining.

Sampson made a pair of free throws to put Minnesota up, 50-46, but Gatens made a trifecta from the right sideline to pull Iowa within one and Basabe gave the Hawkeyes a 51-50 lead with two free throws.

With the crowd once again in a frenzy, Welch made another clutch trey to help Minnesota regain the lead, but Gatens scored to tie it at 53-53. Austin Hollins added a long-range bomb for a 56-53 edge, and after a Gatens free throw cut it to a two-point game, freshman forward Oto Osenieks made up for a missed free throw by making the Gophers' sixth three of the second half for a 59-54 lead with 3:24 left.

But Marble answered with a three-pointer of his own to cut it to 59-57, then tied the game on a one-handd dunk with 1:43 left, and the Gophers went ice cold by missing their final five field goal attempts of the night and going scoreless following Osenieks' trey.

Bryce Cartwright hit a pair of free throws to give the Hawkeyes a 61-59 lead with 1:05 remaining, and Gatens scored on a layup with eight seconds left to seal the victory.

The Gophers lost despite shooting the ball extremely well from three-point range, as they made 10-of-19 (.526) attempts from beyond the arc. But Minnesota made just 10-of-32 (.313) field goals inside the three-point line, and finished at just 39.2 percent (20-of-51) overall. Minnesota was also outrebounded, 39-35, with freshmen Joe Coleman and Elliott Eliason each grabbing a team-high six boards, and the Gophers turned the ball over 16 times.

Minnesota will play its second consecutive road game on Sunday, when it travels to Lincoln, Neb., for its first Big Ten meeting with the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Tipoff at the Devaney Center is set for Noon (CT), and the game will be televised live on the Big Ten Network.

--By Michael Molde, GopherSports.com