Jan. 29, 2014
Shayne Mullaney scored 13 points and dished out seven assists, but her standout performance wasn't enough for Minnesota (13-9, 2-6) to overcome early struggles and strong second half shooting from Iowa (17-5, 5-3) as the Gophers fell to the Hawkeyes, 64-56, at Williams Arena on Wednesday night.
Mullaney played the entire game for the Gophers on a night when three starters - Mullaney, Rachel Banham and Sari Noga - logged 37 minutes or more. Kayla Hirt, who contributed 24 minutes off the bench, finished second among Gophers with 10 points, while grabbing a team-high seven rebounds. Amanda Zahui B. and Banham each had nine points on the night.
It was clear from the game's opening minutes that Minnesota and Iowa had two very different offensive game plans. Attempting to exploit its physical advantage inside, the Gophers got the ball down low on virtually every possession but struggled to convert those opportunities. The Gophers' slow start enabled the Hawkeyes to slowly work into a shooting rhythm as Iowa probed the perimeter for opportunities to hoist up long shots, including 16 three-point attempts in the first half, of which the Hawkeyes hit five to shoot .312 from outside in the opening half.
Iowa's lead slowly grew to as many as 11 points seven minutes into the game, but Minnesota continued to push forward and did not allow Iowa to turn its strong start into an overwhelming advantage. In fact, from the point when the Minnesota trailed by 11, it outscored Iowa 21-16 for the remainder of the first half to head to the locker room trailing by six, 31-25. At that time, neither team was shooting exceptionally well - Minnesota at .323 and Iowa at .367.
Coming out for the game's final 20 minutes, the Gophers attacked with a sense of urgency and were rewarded with the first nine points of the half, flipping what had been a six-point deficit into a three-point lead, the team's first of the game. Iowa matched the Gophers with nine consecutive points on the other end, reclaiming the six-point lead it had squandered since returning to the court after halftime. Zahui B. broke the run with an inside basket, but Iowa continued to push forward, scoring the game's next 11 points to stretch its lead to 51-36.
A bright spot for the Gophers emerged while trailing by 15, as Banham made the second of a pair of free throws to move into sixth on Minnesota's all-time scoring list. With her nine points on the night, Banham now sits at 1,707 career points as she continues to move up the list of Gopher greats.
Iowa found its shooting stroke in the second half, shooting .464 percent from the field in the second half, compared to .353 percent for Minnesota. That improved shooting allowed the Hawkeyes to build the lead to as many as 18 late in the second half. As they had in the first half, the Gophers showed resiliency in spite of falling behind, clamping on a full-court press late in the game that caused several Iowa turnovers and sparked an 11-3 run for the Gophers to finish the game, but the clock hit triple-zeroes before Minnesota could completely overcome the deficit.
Minnesota returns to the court on Saturday, Feb. 1 in Ann Arbor, Mich., where the Gophers will take on Michigan at 11:00 a.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on BTN.
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