The Iowa basketball Hawkeyes beat the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road 58-55 to improve the Hawkeye’s record to 9-6 in conference play and 18-8 overall.
Another game, another opposing team that rattled off a huge run that the Iowa basketball team struggled to find the answer for. Iowa led 21-14 with 7 minutes to go in the first half, that quickly changed when the Gophers went on a 14-0 run, and ending the half on a 17-5 run and taking a five-point lead into the break.
The Hawkeyes despite all the adversity with injuries to CJ Fredrick, Luka Garza finding himself in early foul trouble and Joe Weiskamp disappearing almost completely, found an answer. They clawed their way back into the game behind key minutes behind Bakari Evelyn who played maybe his best game in a Hawkeye uniform and finished with 7 points and 3 assists and was solid on defense late in the game. Cordell Pemsl made all of his shots going 3/3 from the field for 6 points while adding 3 rebounds.
Luka Garza was spectacular in his limited (28) minutes going into foul trouble early, getting tagged with two fouls away from the ball early in the first half. Luka would go on to finish with 24 points and 8 rebounds against one of the best bigs in the Big Ten. With Garza off the floor, the Hawkeyes were lost on the offensive end. Joe Wieskamp struggled tonight but was getting keyed in on by the Gophers and looked a step slow (some speculating sickness?) but yet the resilient Hawkeyes just found a way to win.
It wasn’t Iowa’s A+ game in fact, I would give it a C-. But when the dust settled, this goes down as a Quad 1 road win. It was ugly especially on the offensive end but the Hawkeye defense was able to hold a Minnesota team to just 55 points on the road which is a major step in the right direction for a defense that has looked lost, especially as of late. Minnesota isn’t a great offensive team but came in averaging 70.5 points per game and the Hawkeyes held them well below that number.
Despite missing Garza for a majority of the first half, Minnesota’s dominant center Daniel Oturu was held to just 15 points in the game and when the game was on the line, folded under the pressure missing the front end of a one and one that would have tied the game with 12 seconds left. Garza single-handedly turned the game back into the Hawkeyes favor after Minnesota went on an 8-0 run, answering with 5 straight points of his own to cut the lead back to one. When Iowa needed a shot we needed to look no further than our National Player of the Year candidate, and he answered the call.
The biggest shots of the night, however, came from a surprising place when Bakari Evelyn was bailed out late in the shot clock with just over a minute left and stepped to the line with a chance to take the lead. He made them both. The graduate transfer has been somewhat of a disappointment this season, but was absolutely exceptional down the stretch (defensively as well if we forget the awful foul call on the 4 point play) and I am now excited to see if this doesn’t serve as a momentum builder for Evelyn.
Cordell Pemsl was a huge boost coming off his suspension as well making his presence felt offensively and defensively. We will need more games like this from him as we near March. Joe Touissant was nearly a nonfactor for reasons unknown in this game, playing only 12 minutes but was able to knock down a three early in the game.
The lack of minutes from Toussiant likely stems from Evelyn playing well and Connor McCaffery putting together another excellent game. McCaffery had only 6 points but finished with 7 assists and zero (0!!!!) turnovers. CMac also tallied 4 rebounds and was solid on the defensive end. The emergence of Connor as one of the nation’s best pass-first point guard has been immeasurable for the Hawkeyes and his new willingness to take and (at least sometimes) make the three has forced opponents to at least step out and guard which early in the year wasn’t happening.
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The future for CJ Fredrick is unclear, the general consensus seems to be a serious ankle sprain but if he can come back and play this year, this Iowa team could make a serious run in March.
Improving the defensive play, role players stepping up and an ice-cold killer in Luka Garza is a formula that often to success in the tournament.
Hand up, after the Indiana game I was panicked but this Hawkeye team doesn’t quit and seems to find ways to win close games. Now let’s go beat Ohio State and keep climbing those seed lines.
Iowa basketball will be back home Thursday to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.