Friday, January 1, 2010

Minnesota Gopher Men 86 Iowa Hawkeyes 74

Well, my fears that the Gopher men might not take Iowa seriously were realized when the Hawkeyes closed out their Saturday matinee on a 25-11 run over the final 8:26.

Okay, seriously? By then, Minnesota was ahead 74-49 and had thoroughly dominated their arch-rival to the south. The Gophers came out pretty fired up, running out to 17-4, 23-7 and 45-20 leads in the first half. After Iowa got within 14 early in the second half, the Gophers ripped off a 20-8 run for that 74-49 lead. It was still 84-62 at 2:21 but then the Gophers finally relaxed. The Hawkeyes' closing surge only made what was a demolition job look to the casual observer like it might have been a close, competitive match-up. It wasn't.

The Gophers initial rush to a 23-7 lead at 12:02 of the first half reflected the efforts of both of coach Tubby Smith's two platooons. The first unit built a 17-4 lead. The Gophers first 5 field goals all came after steals by Damian Johnson, Blake Hoffarber, Michael Westbrook, Al Nolen and Nolen again. By the 15:32 mark, Hoffarber had already made 4-of-4 shots, 3 from 3-point land, for 11 quick points. Then, over the ensuing 2 minutes, the second 5 racked up another 6 steals and Paul Carter added a pair of assists to extend the Gophers' lead to 16 points.

Ten minutes later it was 45-20 Gophers, when the Hawkeyes began their first comeback. By half-time it was 49-32, and at 15:53 of the second half it was 54-41, the closest score since 17-4. But the Gophers responded with their second big run of the day. Hoffarber and Johnson combined for 13 of Minnesota's next 20 points while all 7 Gopher field goals were assisted, two by Devoe Joseph.

Hoffarber finished with 24 points, while Johnson scored 13 and added a team-high 4 blocks and 3 steals. Al Nolen had 4 points and 5 assists. Joseph came off the bench to score 12 points and match Nolen's assist total, and Devron Bostick of the second unit stood out with 8 points and a team-high 7 rebounds.

By game's end, the Hawkeyes had evened up the stat sheet a bit. Minnesota shot 50 percent from the field, Iowa 45, and each team had 12 offensive rebounds. But Iowa couldn't do anything to equalize the Gophers quickness. The Minnesota defense forced 25 turnovers, 17 of them on Gopher steals. Minnesota capitalized for a mind-bending 45 points off turnovers (to Iowa's 16). The Gophers also enjoyed a huge lead in fast break points 24-2.

Just imagine what the Gophers might have done if they had taken the Hawkeyes seriously!

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