A return home could not keep the U from an 0-3 start in the Big Ten.
In respect to the score, Wednesday night was nothing new for the Gophers men's basketball team. It was the third consecutive game that was close until the very end. It was the third consecutive game that the Gophers had chances to win at the end, and the third consecutive game they walked off the court disappointed.
But there ends the similarities between Wednesday's 64-62 loss against Iowa at Williams Arena and those at Illinois and Michigan. Because after blowing an early double-digit lead, nearly coming back in the final seconds and ultimately getting beaten on their home court to go 0-3 in Big Ten play, the Gophers -- rife with poor shooting and turnovers -- took a loss that was much, much worse.
With eight seconds remaining, the Gophers had battled back from a six-point deficit to get within two. But on the final play of the game, the Gophers were again stunted by the same issues -- communication, execution, shooting -- that have plagued them since the conference season began. A play that was meant to be a handoff to Julian Welch followed by a pick-and-roll turned into a last-ditch drive by Maverick Ahanmisi. But the layup attempt bounced away as the buzzer sounded, and the Gophers were left to ponder just how deep the troubles go.
"You're disappointed in the way you played, you disappointed your fans, you didn't break the two-game slide you had, and the pressure just builds," dejected coach Tubby Smith said. "Because now you're going to be talked about, and now you're going to be questioned."
In the season's first two months, the Gophers passed nearly every test. They aced their nonconference schedule. They overcame the loss of their leader, Trevor Mbakwe. They took changes and injuries and adjusted accordingly. They proved that even without Mbakwe, they could compete.
But more recently, the Gophers have struggled. After two close losses on the road, the Gophers collapsed in the second half of their Big Ten home opener.
The Gophers came out with an intensity that matched the building's raucous crowd and pushed an early lead to 32-21 with five minutes left in the first half. That's when Iowa went into their defensive zone -- and within those five minutes, the Gophers' pad dissolved to one as the Hawkeyes -- powered by Matt Gatens, who finished with 19 points -- went on a 10-0 run.
"The whole game kind of switched when they did that," Ralph Sampson III said. "They kind of clogged the post, which made it harder for me, Andre [Ingram], Rodney [Williams] and Elliott [Eliason] to get the ball. In the zone you need to attack. We just didn't do it well tonight."
When they tried, things got even sloppier. The Gophers had just two turnovers with three minutes remaining in the first half, but in the second half, no one could seem to hold on to the ball. Sampson -- who scored in bunches but disappeared for stretches -- led with six, and the team finished with 12. Even as the Gophers battled back from a late-game deficit, they couldn't string together enough clean plays to make a run. They couldn't shoot, they couldn't pass, and they couldn't get the ball inside.
"It seems like we're a deer caught in the headlights," Smith said. "We're just frozen ... and all the sudden they went into the zone and missed a few easy good looks from the outside, we had some turnovers, they got the momentum, and the first thing you think is 'Uh oh, here we go again.'"
The loss is huge for a team that can't afford any more "uh ohs" with just one more home game before heading to Bloomington to face red-hot Indiana.
|Philadelphia - LP: K. Kendrick||2||FINAL|
|Washington - WP: J. Zimmermann||5|
|Baltimore - WP: C. Tillman||10||FINAL|
|Toronto - LP: S. Nolin||6|
|Minnesota - LP: S. Deduno||0||FINAL|
|Detroit - WP: A. Sanchez||6|
|Chicago Cubs - LP: S. Feldman||4||FINAL|
|Cincinnati - WP: B. Arroyo||7|
|Cleveland - LP: J. Masterson||1||FINAL|
|Boston - WP: J. Lackey||8|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Phelps||9||FINAL|
|Tampa Bay - LP: R. Hernandez||4|
|Pittsburgh - LP: A. Burnett||1||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - WP: M. Estrada||2|
|Miami - LP: R. Webb||3||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - WP: N. Jones||4|
|LA Angels - WP: J. Vargas||5||FINAL|
|Kansas City - LP: L. Hochevar||2|
|Oakland - WP: P. Neshek||6||FINAL|
|Houston - LP: J. Veras||5|
|San Diego - LP: E. Stults||2||FINAL|
|Arizona - WP: B. McCarthy||5|
|St. Louis||7||Bottom 7th Inning|
|Texas||9||Top 8th Inning|
|Colorado||5||Bottom 9th Inning|