Read my full game story on Minnesota's 75-71 loss at No. 4 Iowa here.
Three quick observations before I pass out in a flu-medicine fueled coma:
Same story, different game. If you're an Iowa fan and you watched tonight's game, it's possible you came away thinking "Well I'll be. (Do people say "I'll be" in Iowa?) Those Gophers might be close to a breakthrough." But if you're a Minnesota fan, you know better. It's not that Minnesota necessarily isn't close to a victory. I mean, Rutgers at home is right around the corner after all. But rather that playing a team close -- even a very good team like Iowa -- has really not proven to be indicative of anything for Richard Pitino's bunch, dating back to last season. In fact, these Gophers have done a whole heck of a lot of playing teams close and have mostly wound up on the wrong end -- nine losses by one or two possessions last year, seven of the last eight by seven points this year. Minnesota has been there -- plenty. But at the end, the Gophers almost never have the winning plays in their pockets. Tonight, it was an inability to attack the zone or get the ball into Mason's hands in the final big plays, plus some rough defensive possessions. The storyline of the Gophers being "close" is getting old because it's so dang common, and Minnesota can't get over the hump.
Gifts. Junior Peter Jok scored the second most he has all year and was supremely consistent for Iowa, but Player of the Year candidate Jarrod Uthoff took some time to heat up. Once he did, mind you, he absolutely abused Minnesota's lack of interior defense and lit up the scoreboard. But just imagine what he could have done had he gotten started earlier. Iowa also shot a Big Ten-low 42.1 percent from the field. The Hawkeyes connected on just six of 19 threes (31.6 percent), the second lowest percentage of league play. Don't fool yourself into thinking that was all Minnesota's less-than-average defense. The Gophers got some help here.
Some good trends. The Gophers have won the rebound battle in each of the last two games, the only time they've done so since the start of the Big Ten schedule. They've also shot 73 percent or better from the free-throw line in the last three after shooting under 59 percent in the previous three. Foul-prone freshman forward Jordan Murphy fouled out last game with 20 seconds to go and collected four tonight, but in each game he hasn't been restricted by foul trouble in the first half and was mostly available when the team needed him. He does a lot for the team's versatility when he's in the game. Kevin Dorsey, Nate Mason and Dupree McBrayer are continuing to improve their three-pronged attack. Ahmad Gilbert brings an energy that seems to actually ignite this team. And for what it's worth, Pitino said he thought tonight was as well as Bakary Konate (five points, nine rebounds) has played all year. So things are pretty bad in the loss column, yes, but with eyes focused on the future, there are still some things to pull you back.