Minnesota zones out in rout at Iowa

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 18, 2013 - 7:16 AM

"It was embarrassing," Tubby Smith said after his team's 16-point lead turned into a 21-point defeat in stunningly quick fashion.

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IOWA CITY - You can bet there wasn't any music this time -- but there weren't raised voices either.

Not much sound at all escaped from behind the door to the visiting locker room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, with Gophers coach Tubby Smith suddenly short on things to say.

He stayed in the locker room for quite a while anyway, following the Gophers' 72-51 collapse to Iowa. Eventually taking his spot in the news conference afterward, Smith lacked answers just the same, calling it "as disappointing of a loss as I've ever had" and repeating the solemn words he told his players.

"I told them it was embarrassing," Smith said. "It really is. It was like we had never seen the zone, we'd never practiced against it. I didn't know what to tell them."

Only three days after a video of them blasting and dancing to Ke$ha's "Die Young" following a badly needed victory over Wisconsin went viral, the Gophers (18-8, 6-7 Big Ten) found little to cheer about Sunday, at least after the first eight minutes.

A 21-5 lead quickly dissolved after Iowa (17-9, 6-7) switched to a zone defense midway through the first half and from there things only got uglier. The result, pleasing most of the black-and-gold-clad crowd announced at 15,400, was the Gophers' first blowout loss of the Big Ten season -- one that again dropped their conference record below .500 and toughened their climb to an NCAA tournament berth.

"This is the toughest game that I've played in," said sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe, who finished with 13 points and six rebounds. "They smelled blood -- they went for it and we weren't able to fight back."

And as in any major collapse, the struggles ran deep and wide.

The Gophers had 17 turnovers, their most in nine games, including six in a span of 2 minutes, 23 seconds in the first half. They were relegated to off-balance and contested perimeter shots and hit only 36.2 percent of their attempts from the floor.

Rodney Williams -- who was not made available to reporters after the game -- didn't attempt a shot in the first half and played a total of 10 minutes. Smith benched him the entire second half, saying that the forward was struggling with his left shoulder injury and "not himself."

Andre Hollins, meanwhile, got his second foul with 8:47 left in the first half, when the Gophers were still up 23-13, and sat the rest of the half. Without the starting point guard, his team helplessly fell victim to the Iowa press and watched the Hawkeyes go on a 21-6 run. The first half closed with Mbakwe fouling Zach McCabe on a three-point attempt with one second left. McCabe made all three free throws for a 34-29 lead a the break.

Hollins returned in the second half, but he never regrouped, finishing with three points on 1-for-8 shooting, one assist and one turnover. Meanwhile, Iowa used a balanced attack -- led by Aaron White and Devyn Marble, who each had 15 points and four rebounds -- to extend its lead, building it to 55-38 with seven minutes left.

"It's a mental thing," Austin Hollins (14 points, four turnovers) said of the Gophers' struggles without the production from the other Hollins. "I think it was a little tough for him once he got into foul trouble, because then he was cold from sitting on the bench and he had to come back in and make things happen."

Instead, what happened was another tough loss on the résumé and added pressure in the intimidating schedule ahead. The Gophers head to No. 11 Ohio State on Wednesday and then return home to No. 1 Indiana to try to re-create that life -- first on the court, then in the locker room.

  • IOWA 72, GOPHERS 51 • Up next: 6 p.m. Wednesday at No. 12 Ohio State • TV: Big Ten Network (1500-AM)

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