MINNEAPOLIS — The worst season in Iowa basketball history now has produced its two worst losses to longtime Big Ten rivals in consecutive games.
Minnesota blasted and demoralized the Hawkeyes in every phase last night, rolling to an 88-53 blitzkrieg at Williams Arena. The 35-point margin of victory was the most for the Gophers in the 186-game series history spanning 108 years.
Iowa’s loss comes four days after Wisconsin ripped the Hawkeyes by 27 points, the largest margin of victory for the Badgers in that 152-game series.
Last night, Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter dismissed questions that suggested his team has given up on this season.
“I don’t see that at all,” Lickliter said. “I think these guys are high-character guys and for what they’ve gone through, it would be really tough if they weren’t.”
Iowa (10-21, 4-14 Big Ten) extended its single-second record for losses and now has lost 24 of 27 Big Ten road games under Lickliter. The Hawkeyes have lost their last four road games by an average of 25.5 points.
“I don’t think this is a team that would just give up and not keep fighting,” Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens said. “I don’t think that’s our mentality. I saw guys working the whole game, but it wasn’t working.”
Iowa never led against Minnesota (18-12, 9-9). The Gophers shot 58.5 percent from the floor, dished 24 assists to eight turnovers and had nine steals. Iowa had 14 turnovers to 12 assists, including nine turnovers in the first half. Minnesota blasted Iowa with a 22-2 run midway through the first half to lead 35-10.
After trailing by 22 at halftime, the Hawkeyes cut its deficit to 17 points. But Minnesota was too strong. The Gophers scored on 12 of their final 15 possessions, even after pulling its seniors to thunderous applause.
“If you play soft like that, that’s what happens,” Iowa sophomore Aaron Fuller said. “You lose by this much.”
Iowa earned the No. 9 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and faces eighth-seeded Michigan at 1:30 p.m. Thursday in the tourney opener for the third straight year. Michigan swept Iowa in two games this year. Iowa has lost its last three Big Ten Tournament openers.
Lickliter suggested playing on an opponents’ senior day was difficult for the team to respond.
“I think emotionally we’re struggling,” Lickliter said. “But Thursday will not be Senior Day. It will be on a neutral (court), and we’ll need to play very good basketball.
“A whole new season for us on Thursday.”Fuller led Iowa with 16 points. Freshman Cully Payne suffered a bruised right knee and left the game but later returned. He had four points and seven assists but had six turnovers.