By Adam Hensley
The last time Iowa and Minnesota collided in basketball, the Hawkeyes came away with an elusive Big Ten victory.
Since then, however, it’s been a different story; Iowa hasn’t won a game since its Jan. 30 victory over Minnesota in Carver-Hawkeye.
Tonight’s trip to Minneapolis won’t change too much for the Hawkeyes this season — the Black and Gold sit dead last in the conference. Head coach Fran McCaffery said during his weekly teleconference on Monday that his team is, however, focused on this season, not thinking about next. Still, it’s hard to think about what could have been, back when Iowa toppled Minnesota.
Jordan Bohannon churned out one of his best performances of the season (20 points, 10 assists, and only 2 turnovers in 38 minutes), and the Hawkeyes moved to .500 on the year. Sitting at 12-12, Iowa needed that win for any momentum. The Hawkeyes followed up their win against the Gophers with a gauntlet of a schedule, dropping the next five games. Minnesota hasn’t been doing too hot recently, either.
The Gophers have only three conference wins, the same as the Hawkeyes, but they enter tonight’s contest having lost nine games in a row. The streak can be attributed to many things, but one stands out in particular — Amir Coffey’s absence.
Minnesota has been without the starting guard, who has missed 10-straight games because of a shoulder injury suffered in January. The team announced on Sunday that the sophomore will miss the rest of the season and will undergo surgery on his right shoulder.
Coffey, who made the Big Ten’s All-Freshman Team last season, averaged 14 points per game this season before his early exit. He did not play when Iowa and Minnesota squared off last month, but McCaffery has seen how the Gophers responded to one of their leaders falling to injury.
“They’re a different team without Coffey for sure, but he’s been out for a while,” McCaffery said during his teleconference. “Guys have been able to step in and expand their roles.”
One such player is freshman guard Isaiah Washington, who has been one of the few Minnesota bright spots during the nine-game slide. Washington found his footing against Iowa on Jan. 30, and he hasn’t looked back — that game was his breakout this season.
“Washington had a terrific game against us,” McCaffery said during his teleconference. “He’s been in double figures every game since, until [Monday].”
Washington scored 4 points in Minnesota’s overtime loss to Wisconsin on Monday, but he averages 8.2 per game. Against Iowa, Washington dropped a then-career-high 15 points, which earned him Big Ten’s Freshman of the Week. He scored 26 points in the following game against Michigan, and he added 18 in his team’s Feb. 13 loss to Michigan State.
Minnesota didn’t have the best 3-point shooting performance against Iowa in the first matchup (28 percent from downtown), but the Hawkeyes need to fix their defensive efforts around the arc after their loss to Indiana, in which they gave up 14 3-pointers.
McCaffery noted that he intends to keep switching things up on defense, between man and zone.
“You look at every team differently,” he said during his teleconference. “Some teams you’ll play more zone, some teams you’ll play more man, some teams it’ll be a function of what’s working that day.”
The tip off for the game is 8:05 p.m., and the game can be viewed on the Big Ten Network.