Our basketball writers are all out on assignments to undisclosed locations, so I have stepped in to deliver postgame analysis as only a football writer can.
The losing streak is over. After nine consecutive losses and the news on Saturday that Amir Coffey would miss the rest of the season, the Gophers were able to send out their seniors with an 86-82 victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes on Senior Night at Williams Arena.
It was the final home game for seniors Nate Mason, Bakary Konate, and Gaston Diedhiou. Mason certainly went out with a bang, leading the team with 33 points and 6 assists on the night. Davonte Fitzgerald closed the door on the Hawkeyes, sinking two free throws in the final seconds to put the game out of reach.
The Hawkeyes — who have trailed by at least 18 points in every Big Ten road game this season — were true to form, falling behind 22-2 in the first nine minutes of the game. Not to be outdone, Minnesota responded with a scoring drought of their own, shooting 1-for-12 over the next seven minutes to allow Iowa to cut it to 22-13.
Minnesota would head to the locker room with a 31-19 lead at halftime.
The Gophers never trailed, but the rest of the game was much closer than it needed to be. After that 22-2 start, Minnesota was outscored 80-64 over the next 30 minutes. Mason got the better of sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon, who was held scoreless for just the second time this season. But with Bohannon off his game, Isaiah Moss stepped up to lead Iowa with a career-high 32 points, shooting 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.
In the second half, the Gophers came close to squandering a 14-point lead in the final two minutes of the game, as the Hawkeyes were able to close the gap and come within three points. But the aforementioned Davonte Fitzgerald free throws in the final seconds of the game sealed the much-needed win for Minnesota.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention this exclamation point courtesy of Dupree McBrayer.
But the star of the night was without question Nate Mason, who is nearing the end of a Gopher career that has thus far flown much too far under the radar.
"I told myself I wasn't going to get emotional like Joey (King)..."— Minnesota on BTN (@MinnesotaOnBTN) February 22, 2018
Nate Mason held back the tears, but still delivered a great interview alongside Coach Pitino and @BTNJonCrispin: pic.twitter.com/v2p8xTjEbp
The Gophers close out the regular season on the road at No. 9-ranked Purdue at 3 p.m. CT on Sunday, Feb. 25. The game will be televised on FS1, if you’re into that sort of thing.