IOWA CITY — Iowa junior forward Melsahn Basabe was clear that Sunday’s game carries extra importance for the Hawkeyes.
Two weeks ago Iowa (16-9, 5-7 Big Ten) had the Gophers beaten only to fall apart late with turnovers, a missed defensive assignment and sloppy offensive execution in a 62-59 loss at Williams Arena. In a season filled to with kick-to-the-gut losses for the Hawkeyes, Iowa’s defeat at Minnesota (18-7, 6-6 Big Ten) might rank as the most indigestible to Basabe.
“We’ve got to get them,” Basabe said minutes after his team edged Penn State 74-72 Thursday. “They’re coming into our place. It’s a personal game for this team because we just played them, and we felt like we should have won that game. We need to come full force for them.”
With 11. 2 seconds left and Iowa leading 59-57, Minnesota guard Austin Hollins drilled a 3-pointer from the corner to give the Gophers a one-point lead. After an Iowa turnover, two Minnesota free throws and a last-second Iowa 3-point attempt from Mike Gesell that bounced off the rim, Minnesota ended Iowa’s two-game winning streak in the long-played series.
Minnesota forward Rodney Williams described the game against Iowa as a “fight” and a “rivalry.” He echoed those comments Thursday after the Gophers beat Wisconsin 58-53 in overtime. Williams was relieved and called the win against the Badgers a confidence boost for his club.
“We lost to them at their place by one and you would want to lose a game by 100 (rather) than lose by one, and they are our rivals so we definitely needed some revenge,” Williams said.
Two hours afterward and a 1,000 miles away, Basabe was thinking about revenge against the Gophers. When he was told Minnesota beat Wisconsin in overtime, Basabe said, “That’s irrelevant to me.”
“I’m thinking about when I just see them,” Basabe said. “Not that it’s irrelevant, but we need to be so locked into that game.”
While retribution is on Basabe’s mind, it’s not the first emotion for Iowa junior Devyn Marble. At Minnesota, Marble was held scoreless for the first time since his freshman season. He took just two shots and sat out for an 11-minute, 25-second stretch in the second half. He re-entered the game with 2:10 left, then threw a pass out of bounds with 36.6 seconds left to give the Gophers the ball. That led to Hollins’ 3-pointer.
“I can’t really dwell on it,” Marble said. “There’s a lot of games in my career where I probably should have won and my team should have won, but you can’t really think about it. You’ve got to move on to the next one.”
But that doesn’t change how Marble views that defeat. Every player talks about the missed shot, the turnover, the poor possession in tight losses. But both Marble and Basabe believe they should have beaten the Gophers. And that hasn’t changed.
“We feel like we should have won that game there,” Marble said. “So we’re going to come out with a chip on our shoulders and try to show we’re the better team.”
“We respect them, we respect the way they play,” Basabe said. “They have talent, they have good players. But we have to be locked and loaded to get that. We have to get that at home. It’s just necessary.”
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