By Pete Ruden
Iowa’s game against Minnesota on Wednesday was a movie many Hawkeye fans have seen before.
The Gophers got out to a 22-2 lead in the first half and went on to beat the Hawkeyes, 86-82, in Minneapolis.
While the 20-point lead Minnesota built up early was certainly impressive, it didn’t stay that large. Iowa went on an 11-0 run of its own to make it a single-digit game and had a huge comeback in the second half to come close to sending the game to overtime.
Iowa scored 63 second half points, which is the most the Hawkeyes have put up in the final 20 minutes this year. Wednesday marked the seventh time this season that the Hawkeyes have scored 50 or more points in the second half, the fourth time in their last eight games.
Iowa overcame a poor first half in which it shot under 35 percent. By the end of the game, the Hawkeyes raised their shooting percentage to 49.3 percent from the floor.
Despite the loss, Iowa had strong showings from Isaiah Moss and Ryan Kriener. Both sophomores set career-highs, as Moss dropped 32 points, and Kriener netted 15.
Freshman Luka Garza also had a much-needed showing, scoring 16 points to go along with 9 rebounds.
Their performances came when Iowa needed them, because Tyler Cook and Jordan Bohannon, the Hawkeyes’ two leading scorers, did not have strong nights offensively.
Cook recorded 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting, and Bohannon failed to score, missing both of his shot attempts.
It was a good comeback for Kriener, who missed numerous games earlier in the season with a concussion.
“The thing I love about him is he came in missed a shot, in the second half, missed another shot, but he’s going to keep shooting,” head coach Fran McCaffery said. “He doesn’t have anything at all resembling tentative in his game. He’s coming. That’s why I think he has a chance to be really special.”
After Kriener put his time in, Moss tried to bring the Hawkeyes back at the end, scoring 19 points in the final 1:36.
“He has the ability to do that,” McCaffery said. “It’s funny because you have a guy who’s a legitimate 6-5, he can get to the rim, he’s got a pull-up game, he’s got a 3-point game, and he’s quick. All I ever do is encourage him to go … You go get buckets. That’s what you do. He was really impressive tonight.”
The strong second half was a stark contrast from the first half, where the ugly offense was apparent throughout, and Minnesota led 31-19 at the break. Both teams had a hard time getting shots to fall; Iowa’s field-goal percentage was 32.1 percent, and the Gophers hit their shots at a 35.3 percent clip.
Turnovers were also a big problem for Iowa early. In the first seven minutes of game time, the Hawkeyes turned it over six times.
Gopher guard Nate Mason was a big reason for Minnesota’s success in the first half, and he helped his team clinch the game in the end. On the team’s Senior Night, the senior guard dropped 33 points and 6 assists.
Jordan Murphy complemented Mason in an impressive way, scoring 21 of his own while grabbing 17 rebounds.
“Those two guys give you a chance to win every night,” McCaffery said.