Shorthanded Gophers come up short at home against Hawkeyes 81-71

Jan. 16, 2021: With four players and two coaches out due to illness or injury, the Gophers came up just short against Iowa 81-71, dropping their fourth straight Big Ten contest.

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Full Game Recap:

  • First Half: The shorthanded Gophers, opened the game with a lot of energy. After holding Iowa to a 2 of 8 shooting to start the game, Minnesota jumped out to 7-5 lead. The Hawkeyes’ leading scorer Keegan Murray began to heat up with six quick points, and the Gophers quickly trailed 18-13. The high-powered Iowa offense (86.5 PPG) began to heat up to close the first half, while the Gophers struggled with only seven scholarship players. Trailing 35-23 heading into the final media timeout of the half it looked like it was going to be tough for the Marron & Gold to get back into the game. The Gophers lack of frontcourt depth was very clear in half No. 1. The Hawkeye’s two post players of Muray and Filip Rebraca combined to score 24 of the team’s 43 first half points, and Minnesota trailed by 16.

  • Second Half: The second half looked like it was much of the same for the Gophers. Keegan Murray had six more quick points and the deficit quickly grew to 20. It looked like the only bright spot for the Maroon & Gold in half No. 2 was going to be E.J. Stephens. The Lafayette transfer toatled (17) points in the second half, bringing his game total to 24. But, the Gophers did not go down without a fight, something that has become a trend under Ben Johnson In a game that could’ve gotten seriously out of hand, the Gophers remarkably cut Iowa’s lead all the way down to three.  True freshman Treyton Thompson played eight terrific minutes to close out the game, but it was ultimately not enough, as Iowa closed the game on a 7-0 run, winning 81-71.


Instant Reaction & Takeaways:

I was ready to say that this team is not able to handle any injuries or inactives and Eric CurrySean SutherlinDanny Ogele and Joey Kern (walk-on) being out really hurt this team. For 30 minutes it looked like that would be the story from this game, and it still might be true, but Ben Johnson’s winning culture continues to show with this team.
Most college teams, let alone Minnesota teams of the past, would’ve rolled over in that game. Johnson has every player wearing a Gophers jersey playing hard for 40 minutes. This might not be a tournament team, or a team that will win many games in the Big Ten, but they were never supposed to be. As a first year head coach, building a culture is often the most important thing to do, and Johnson has done that so far. With four straight Big Ten losses, their NCAA Tournament chances are getting more and more grim, but this team is so easy to root for and the will continue to be, as long as Johnson is at the helm.

What is Next?:

Next on the schedule for the Gophers is a road trip to Penn State to take on the Nittany Lions, a game that they badly need to win if they would like any chance of playing postseason basketball. Penn State is 8-7 this season and 3-4 in conference, there is never an off night in the Big Ten, and the Nittany Lions are proof of that, it will likely be another game, where Minnesota is not favored to win and Penn State should give them all they can handle.

No matter how that game ended, it showed that this team would badly miss Eric Curry and Sean Sutherlin if they are out for an extended period of time. Treyton Thompson did a terrific job down the stretch, and I believe that he showed that he at least deserves 10+ minutes per game in this rotation. The Gophers badly need depth and most importantly in the front court and Thompson provides that. Like I said, this might not be a tournament team, but they will fight in every game they play and they will continue to be easy to root for.

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