MINNEAPOLIS — Iowa sophomore Eric May shook off a three-game slump to post one of his best performances this season Sunday at Minnesota.
May, a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, scored 16 points, grabbed three rebounds, dished two assists and snagged two steals in Iowa’s 69-59 loss to the Gophers. The statistics don’t show how active May was on defense, which is what pleased Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery.
“I’m so happy for him,” McCaffery said. “He’d been struggling. He’d been hurt. His confidence was shaken. I thought defensively when he’s up toward the ball, making deflections and stealing it and dunking it in the first half, that’s the kind of play we need him to make.”
With Iowa trailing in the first half, May twice put the Hawkeyes within one possession of tying the Gophers. May hit a jumper just inside the 3-point arc early in the half. Five minutes later he stole the ball at midcourt and then drove for a dunk and was fouled by Minnesota’s Austin Hollings in the process. May converted the free throw to cut Iowa’s deficit to 12-9.
“That has such great impact on his offense at the other end,” McCaffery said. “He was just feeding off his own energy level. I thought his decision-making, no mistakes, hitting 3s ... I thought defensively he and (Matt) Gatens were really good (Sunday).”
Both May and McCaffery described the Dubuque native’s confidence as waning before Sunday’s game. Part of it was the injury, which continues to nag him. The other was his inconsistent shooting.
May had scored a combined three points in Iowa’s previous two games and he missed another with a groin pull in the Big Ten opener against Illinois. In Big Ten play May had hit only 4-of-15 shots from the floor before Sunday’s game.
Against Minnesota, May’s outside shot came alive in the second half. He sank all three 3-point attempts, including one that put Iowa ahead 35-34. He hit two more late to chop the Gophers’ lead from 14 to 10 points.
“I felt confident in my shot,” May said. “I was doing what the coaches told me, they said I really I’ve got to start getting out into passing lanes, playing aggressive on defense. Getting a couple steals helped me start it off.”