MINNEAPOLIS — A dozen questions stared squarely at Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery and most of them dealt with his defense.
The Hawkeyes gave up a season high in points and suffered their second straight setback, this time 95-89 to Minnesota at Williams Arena last night. The numbers were difficult to digest for McCaffery, yet they told an ambiguous story.
The Gophers scored 95 points for the first time in 21 official seasons. Minnesota shot 61.2 percent from the floor, including 69.2 percent in the first half. The Gophers buried Iowa with a first-half 3-point barrage, knocking down 9 of 11.
But within those numbers, McCaffery offered a shrug. Minnesota sank eight consecutive 3-pointers to end the first half. Some were because of late rotations, other times Iowa plainly was beat by good shooting.
McCaffery chose to consider both interpretations.
“A lot of times you sit here and you lose and we didn’t do this, we didn’t do that,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “We should have done this, we could have done that. They put up 95.
“Now we can blame our defense if you want to, but at some point you’ve got to respect your opponent and say, ‘You know what, you had a good game plan.’ The kids executed it, they moved it, they got open and they made the shots. All the power to them.”
Minnesota’s 12 3-pointers were four more than in its last two games combined. Its 95 points were as many as the Gophers have scored in the last two games, both losses. Their shooting performance brought a simple word from Coach Richard Pitino’s lips — “Finally.”
But the 3-point prowess wasn’t what won the game for Minnesota (18-11, 7-9 Big Ten). At two different junctures Iowa trailed by at least 10 points and each time the Hawkeyes rallied. When Minnesota led 51-41 with 55.6 seconds left in the first half, Iowa’s Devyn Marble scored on a traditional three-point play and followed with a 3-pointer at the buzzer to cut the deficit to four.
Iowa chopped Minnesota’s lead to two with a steal and a layup on its opening second-half possession. Then the Gophers stretched their lead to eight. Iowa cut it to two on back-to-back 3-pointers from Josh Oglesby, then Minnesota pushed it to seven. Iowa trailed by two, Oglesby drilled a 3-pointer and Anthony Clemmons scored on a layup to trail just 68-66.
“During that time I thought it was right there for the taking,” White said. “I thought if we would have made a shot to either tie it up or take the lead, it would have been our game. We just didn’t make the plays.”
Iowa scored just one point on its next seven possessions, while Minnesota scored 12 to go up 80-67 with 8:23 left. Iowa rallied one more time with Marble fouled while tipping in a Mike Gesell miss for a layup. Marble, who scored a team-high 24 points, hit the free throw to push Iowa within 82-80. But Iowa missed its last four 3-point attempts, and Minnesota knocked down 14 of its final 17 free throws for the win.
Oglesby started in place of forward Melsahn Basabe, who was out with a stomach ailment, and scored 16 points.
But Minnesota displayed more firepower with Austin Hollins, who totaled 27 points. He drilled all six shots — including four 3-pointers — in the first half. Guard DeAndre Matthieu added 19.
It was the first time this season Iowa had lost consecutive games.