This is Amelia Rayno's third season on the Gophers men's basketball beat. She learned college basketball in North Carolina (Go Tar Heels!), where fanhood is not an option. In 2010, she joined the Star Tribune after graduating from Boston's Emerson College, which sadly had no exciting D-I college hoops to latch onto. Amelia has also worked on the sports desk at the Boston Globe and interned at the Detroit News.

  Follow Rayno on Twitter @AmeliaRayno

Gophers postgame: Minnesota still a few steps behind the elite

Posted by: Amelia Rayno under College basketball, Gophers coaches, Gophers players Updated: January 19, 2014 - 5:03 PM

Read my full story on the Gophers' 94-73 loss at Iowa here.

Gophers fans shouldn't feel terrible about what happened on Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

As they have all year, the Gophers showed plenty of bright spots worth being excited about going forward.

Perhaps, though, the loss was as clear as sign as ever that Minnesota is still several notches below the truly elite teams of the Big Ten.

One game after beating No. 11 Ohio State to earn their first real signature victory, the Gophers looked intriguing still, but very human. Minnesota was impressive in building a 10-point lead in the first half, with Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins looking like their old dominant selves, and the Gophers excelling despite Elliott Eliason and Mo Walker sitting on the bench for long stretches due to foul trouble. But with 1:13 remaining before halftime, that double-digit advantage slipped to just two at the break. When Iowa came back in the second, they carried the momentum with them, with Devyn Marble going off for nine points in the first 2:05 and the Hawkeyes rolling with one of the most efficient offenses in college basketball. 

From there, the Gophers simply couldn't get the stops they needed -- showing us once more that the defense is still a ways from where it needs to consistently be for Minnesota to take the next step.

Make no mistake, this was not last year's game, when the Gophers got a 21-5 lead to start the game before crumbling into a nearly 20-point loss. The Gophers stopped playing in that one -- they appeared to accept their fate long before the final buzzer dictated it.

That wasn't the case on Sunday. Minnesota kept battling and fighting -- but they simply got beat. Iowa has improved dramatically since last season, a jump that was on full display at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Perhaps coach Richard Pitino summed it up best.

"Against Michigan State, I felt like we made a lot of mistakes," he said. "I think [Iowa] just totally kicked our butt."

More notes from today's loss:

*Austin Hollins showed encouraging signs that he's broken out of his slump, finishing with 13 points, eight rebounds and five steals in a terrific performance. Without his efforts, the Gophers likely wouldn't have had a lead to lose. Still, it was hard for Hollins to be too relieved after the loss. "It felt good," he said. "But it doesn't matter if we don't win, that's the most important thing."

*Iowa had five players finish with double digit points: Aaron White, Devyn Marble, Mike Gesell, Gabriel Olaseni and Josh Oglesby, highlighting their depth. "They keep coming with guys. They've done a great job of recruiting and you look, as they go deeper and deeper into their bench, there is no drop-off." The Hawkeyes had 43 points off their bench.

*The Gophers complete their hellacious stretch of four consecutive top-15 teams on Wednesday, with No. 3 Wisconsin at home. So far, they've got 1-2 in that stretch.

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