A shorthanded Minnesota lost to Iowa today at Williams Arena 81-71. With the loss, the Gophers drop to 10-5 on the season and 1-5 in conference play. E.J Stephens led all scorers with 24 points.
Frankly speaking, a full strength Minnesota team would struggle with Iowa. A shorthanded team missing four players and two coaches with injuries or COVID needed to play a perfect game. Unfortunately, Minnesota was anything but perfect today. The Gophers struggled to clear the glass on the defensive end, gifting Iowa many second chance opportunities. Minnesota committed six turnovers in the first half, gifting Iowa six points on turnover opportunities. Minnesota also had difficulty making any shot from beyond 15 feet, including free throws.
In the first half, the Gophers jumped out to an early lead before Iowa started consistently finding Keegan Murray in good positions around the basket. Murray was 7-11 from the field in the first half. Having a healthy Eric Curry would made a difference, as there is a large drop off in interior defense from Curry to the bench. Combine Murray’s success with Minnesota’s turnovers and poor shooting, and the lead 43-27 at the half.
Minnesota began the second half needing to immediately chip away at the lead, and instead committed three turnovers on their first four possessions of the half. The wheels fell off soon after as the Hawkeyes extended the lead to 23 points at the under 12 mark. E.J. Stephens kept the Gophers mathematically alive for much of the second half. Stephens scored the majority of his points in the second half.
Now readers, I will be honest with you. I more or less wrote off this game when Iowa pushed the lead to 23. Fortunately, the Gophers did not. Yes, they are undermanned, but this team competes hard. The ball started to move on the offensive end, shots began to fall, and defense became stout. The Gophers went on a 25-12 run over the next eight minutes to cut the game to single digits. They cut the lead to a one possession game less than two to play. Sadly, Iowa made several
Get healthy quick everyone who was missing today.
Minnesota had more turnovers than three point makes for the game. Were I to do an impression of a sports analytics “guru” I would call this metric “TTP” which was over 4 for most of the game. Then I would make a breathless claim about how this incredibly advanced statistic (taking two numbers and dividing them is a bar so low that it is a tripping hazard) is predictive of the team doing poorly on offense.
Treyton Thompson received his first extended minutes of the season. The freshman had eight points on perfect shooting in eleven minutes of action in the second half. I would not hate to see him get more in the next few games with Curry out. For no other reason, Thompson is seven feet tall, and one does not have to be a great basketball mind to realize that all else equal more height is a good thing on a court.
I am happy that Jamison Battle will be here for another year or two. He has been substantially better than I expected. More importantly, he already can create his own shot with regularity. When the Gophers get more talent around him, Battle has All Big-10 potential.
Abdoulaye Thiam played and scored points. Will Ramberg played but did not.