MINNEAPOLIS — Fran McCaffery still has concerns about his offense.
In the wake of a 76-67 win against Penn State, the Iowa head coach said the team’s inability to sink shots consistently has become a problem. Iowa shot 40 percent from the floor against the Nittany Lions, which was an improvement over the two previous games but not nearly enough for what McCaffery wants. Or what the Hawkeyes need Sunday (noon, BTN) against No. 23 Minnesota.
“That’s been a little bit of a struggle for us,” McCaffery said. “We hit some more jumpers (Thursday); that’s good to see. But our execution is still a little bit off. It’s closer. They’re working at it. They’re trying, but it’s got to be better.”
The Hawkeyes (14-7, 3-5 Big Ten) face their most-played rival for their 191st meeting with plenty at stake for both teams. Iowa enters the first of two consecutive road games, both at upper-division foes. A pair of losses could stunt the Hawkeyes’ chances at the NCAA tournament.
Minnesota (16-5, 4-4) has lost four of its last five and fell from the top 10 in the last two weeks.
Iowa swept the season series last year after losing six straight to the Gophers. Both games were hard-fought battles, and Iowa won by a combined six points. At Williams Arena, Iowa held a seven-point lead with 40 seconds left before missing six straight free throws. The Gophers mounted a tenacious comeback, but guard Maverick Ahanmisi’s last-second shot caromed off the glass and Iowa held on 64-62.
“It should be a good match-up,” Iowa sophomore Aaron White said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
It’s also a battle between two of the league’s top rebounding teams. Minnesota is second in rebounding margin at 9.6 per game, and the Gophers lead the league in offensive rebounds. Minnesota sixth-year senior Trevor Mbakwe leads the league at 8.6 rebounds per game.
Iowa ranks third in offensive rebounding and second in defensive rebounding.
“They’ve got long, athletic, frontcourt players,” White said. “Even their guards are long and athletic. They press. They’re real physical down low, a great rebounding team.
“We’re going to go up there confident. We’re a pretty good rebounding team ourselves, especially now at this time we’ve got a big frontcourt that can match them.”
Iowa is the Big Ten’s best in 3-point defense; Minnesota leads in blocked shots at 6.1 per game and steals 9.1 per game
Iowa leads in assists at 16.1 per game; Minnesota second at 16.0
Each team’s leading scorers — Minnesota’s Andre Hollins and Iowa’s Devyn Marble — each average 14.1 points
This is the 191st game between Iowa and Minnesota, the most for the Hawkeyes against another opponent. Minnesota has played Wisconsin 192 times and already have played once.