Minnesota defeated Iowa 92-87 at Williams Arena. With the win, the Gophers are now 5-4 in conference play and 15-5 on the season. Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey led all Minnesota scorers with 23.
That was fun as hell wasn’t it? As the youths would say, that game slapped. At least I think that’s what the youths would say. Like any non-youth trying to use slang, I am likely hopelessly out of touch. No matter. Minnesota-Iowa was a display of perfect watchability. This game had everything. Lights out three point shooting, alley-oop dunks, Dan Cortez.
Start with the offense, Minnesota had a 64% effective field goal percentage. In the first half, the Gophers put up 1.57 points per possession. That is a stupid good number. That is the Warriors when even Jordan Bell is feeling it good. Jordan Murphy made a buzzer beater three pointer because why not good. Sure, Iowa’s defense had the impermeability of a paper snowflake a second grader made for art day, but that should not invalidate just how good Minnesota was on offense in the first half. Regardless of what Fran McCaffrey put out as a defense, Minnesota moved the ball well, had strong spacing, and got to the rim often. Massive credit to Pitino and the coaching staff for preparing the team well to play against the zone and the team for executing well. Do you want a highlight of Matz Stockman dunking a basketball after a series of brilliant passes against a zone? Of course you do.
Iowa tightened up a bit in the second half and went on a run of their own. The Gophers decided to ignore first principles in beating a 3⁄4 trap. Then, it turned out that Luke Garza and Tyler Cook are good basketball players. Finally, Minnesota briefly forgot how to shoot free throws for a bit to make it a two possession game. At that point, Dupree McBrayer stepped up and played like a senior, making three of four free throws, adding a steal and an assist to Eric Curry to put the game away. McBrayer also put up two lovely alley oops to Amir Coffey. Let’s watch one together.
Minnesota next plays Illinois in a must win for the tournament. If they play like they did today, the Gophers will win by 30. We have already seen this year what happens when Minnesota has an off-night against Illinois.
Jordan Murphy is now second all-time in conference history in rebounds. Murphy had 23 points on 7-9 shooting (8-11 from the line), 11 rebounds, and six assists. He also was able to stay on the court for as long as necessary with just three fouls. It is hard to overstate how confusing it is to watch a player who is so good at what he does that he is boring to watch. We are lucky to have him as a player.
Amir Coffey played like an NBA prospect tonight. 23 points on 8-15 shooting (5-7 from the line) and 5 assists and three rebounds is a great stat line. Coffey also had three absurd plays of note. The two alley-oops and then a most impressive Dr. J style up and under reverse layup off a baseline drive. He is not as efficient as he could be as a scorer, and there are times that his aggression gets the better of him, but an aggressive Coffey is the best Coffey.
Gabe Kalscheur had 19 points tonight, shooting 3-10 from three and at least 8 of those were good shots. Two of them were in and out. Kalscheur did a great job driving past defenders when they overplayed his shot, a skill that he will only get better at with more experience. Recruiting steal of the year.
Isaiah Washington had an impactful 13 minutes. Washington was 3-4 from the field for 7 points, and played entirely under control. My assumption is that he did not see more minutes because McBrayer and Kalscheur’s defense was too important late in the second half, but it was exactly the game a coach wants to see from their backup point guard.
Somehow neither Fran nor Pitino was t’d up tonight. I think they both likely deserved one.