The headlining act for Sunday’s game at Williams Arena was definitely the battle between the Big Ten’s top big men, Iowa’s Luka Garza and the Gophers’ Daniel Oturu.
For the second time this season, Garza’s team came out on top with the Gophers letting the game slip away in a 58-55 loss.
This time around the Hawkeyes’ 6-11 junior clearly outplayed the Gophers’ 6-10 sophomore offensively after Oturu slightly had the better performance Dec. 9 in Iowa City.
Garza fouled out but finished with 24 points (on 11-for-21 shooting) and eight rebounds in 28 minutes. He has scored 20 or more points in 11 straight Big Ten games.
Oturu finished with 15 points — his lowest total at home since December — on 6-for-13 shooting. He also had eight rebounds, four turnovers and three blocks in 36 minutes.
“He’s so good and he’s so dominant,” Gophers coach Richard Pitino said about Garza. “We did a good job on Joe Wieskamp [two points on 1-for-7 shooting], but whenever you have Garza on the court, he’s going to give you a chance.”
Garza scored Iowa’s first 10 points of the game, but he was shut out the rest of the half after Oturu switched defensively with Alihan Demir.
The lasting impression from Oturu’s performance, though, will be his missing the first of two possible free throws with the Gophers trailing 57-55 with 3.8 seconds left.
“I’m sure he’s kicking himself,” Pitino said. “There’s other things that contributed to that. It’s never just one thing. Although he’s disappointed, he did a lot of other good things as well. You can’t beat yourself up.”
For the game, Oturu was 3-for-7 from the line.
Iowa goes big
Iowa went with a bigger lineup with 6-10 Ryan Kriener replacing injured C.J. Fredrick, the Big Ten leader in three-point accuracy at 46.5%.
Kriener was the only other Hawkeyes player in double figures besides Garza. He finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, four blocks and two assists in 35 minutes.
The Gophers had trouble with Kriener until freshman Isaiah Ihnen came off the bench to provide some rim protection with his length. Ihnen finished with five points, four rebounds and a career-best three blocks in 16 minutes.