With 0:44 left in the game, Joe Toussaint drained two free throws and Iowa had an 80-73 lead on the road at Minnesota. In a game that saw the Hawkeyes come out ice cold and get thoroughly outplayed for the first 15+ minutes, one defensive stop was all that separated Iowa from a gusty, come-from-behind road victory and a 2-0 start to Big Ten play.
Once again: The Hawkeyes had a seven point lead with 0:44 left.
Alas, like that elusive PS5 you've been begging to find under the tree, that final defensive stop would never appear for Iowa inside the cavernous Williams Arena. Instead, the final 0:44 unfolded as such:
- Foul on Connor McCaffery leading to two Minnesota free throws (80-75 Iowa)
- CJ Frederick splits two free throws (81-75 Iowa)
- Marcus Carr three pointer (81-78 Iowa)
- Joe Toussaint makes two free throws (83-78 Iowa)
- Foul on Joe Toussaint leading to two Minnesota free throws (83-80)
After trading trips to the charity stripe for 30 seconds of game-time, the Gophers were finally running out of time. With Iowa leading 83-80 and only 14 seconds remaining, Toussaint was intentionally fouled and stepped to the free throw line needing one conversion to push the Hawkeyes up two possessions and seemingly in the clear of any sort of Minnesota rally.
And then he missed both free throws.
The Gophers gathered the second miss and Iowa, instead of intentionally fouling star Minnesota guard Marcus Carr up three with under 10 seconds to play, watched Carr calmly drill a trey from the right shoulder to tie the contest at 83 with five seconds left.
One more time: The Hawkeyes had a seven-point lead with 0:44 left.
Following Carr's game-tying shot, the rest of the night unfolded as predictably as a Fran McCaffery-coached team giving up a ridiculous rally to blow a winnable game against an inferior Big Ten opponent.
Jordan Bohannon's contested heave from a little further than half-court range fell short and the game went into overtime. In the extra period, some dude who entered the game shooting 2-10 from three on the season, Minnesota's Brandon Johnson, proceeded to make four straight three-pointers to open the extra period and the Hawkeyes never came close again.
Final Score: Minnesota 102, Iowa 95
It was an infuriating collapse for Iowa that was compounded by the fact that they were playing a Minnesota team that was out-muscled and out-classed against Illinois just ten days ago. On paper the Hawkeyes should've won this game going away... but this is the Big Ten and I guess that kind of stuff just doesn't happen on the road, even in an empty arena.
It was also a completely deserved defeat for a Hawkeyes team that came out of the gate missing shots from pretty much everywhere and was out-worked by the Gophers for much of the night.
Carr finished with 30 points and eight assists to lead Minnesota, but it was Johnson who shined brightest. The senior grad-transfer entered the night averaging six points and five rebounds per game, so naturally he ripped Iowa for 26 points (12 in overtime) and nine rebounds on eight of nine shooting from beyond the arc.
[Insert line ripping Iowa's defense] Lather, Rinse, Repeat
The Hawkeyes' opening 20 minutes were not great. Iowa went just 11-34 from the field (5-13 from long range) and turned the ball over five times, while Luka Garza missed what felt like 100 bunnies and or/contested layups within five feet of the basket, going 2-11 from the field for only five points. Joe Wieskamp led the Hawkeyes with 10 points (thanks mostly to four free throws), and C.J. Fredrick broke out of his offensive slump with seven points on 3-4 shooting heading into the locker room. No other Hawkeyes topped five points.
But for as sluggish as Iowa looked early, Minnesota wasn't much better. The Gophers only shot 13-36 from the field (6-19 from three) in the first half. Still the home team committed only one turnover, made six threes and Carr poured in 15 points in staking the Gophers to a 38-33 lead at the break.
It's tough to find many positives for the Hawkeyes from this game given how badly they collapsed, but there were some bright spots to be noted.
Garza finished with very Garza-like numbers, but for some reason it didn't feel like a typical performance from the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year. The senior scored 32 points and 17 rebounds, but it came on just 11-27 shooting from the floor and only one three-pointer. Full credit goes to Minnesota's defensive strategy coming into the contest, which was to simply double (and sometimes triple) team the Hawkeye big-man anytime he touched the ball. The Gophers sent players right at Garza and it didn't necessarily work, but it sure slowed his dominance enough to keep Minnesota within striking distance.
Fredrick finished with 23 points (16 of them in the second half), draining five of the six three pointers he attempted. This was undoubtedly a very welcoming sight for Iowa as the sophomore entered Wednesday having scored only 27 points over the last four games combined.
The rest of Iowa's statistics on the night were pretty ugly:
- 29-78 on FGs (37.2%)
- 10-30 from 3 (33.3%)
- 27-38 on FTs (71.1%)
One final note, it's clear that Joe Toussaint should be inserted into the starting lineup in lieu of Jordan Bohannon. Bohannon is clearly struggling all over the floor and while he didn't turn the ball over in the contest, he shot only 1-7 from three-point land and committed four fouls, two of them pretty costly late in the second half.
Toussaint finished with only seven points and three assists, but even to the untrained eye it is clear that the Hawkeyes' offense is more fluid and dynamic when he is running the point. This is not a direct knock on Bohannon, but rather it comes down to the fact that Toussaint can do things that nobody else on this roster can do.
With all of the above being said, it's important to remember that this was only one game in what will be a long Big Ten slog and the Hawkeyes entered this game ranked #4 in the country for a reason. This Hawkeyes team is fully capable of making Wednesday's collapse more a blip on the radar instead of a troubling sign of things to come, and at 1-1 in the conference Iowa will have plenty of opportunities to right this wrong.
However, it is also important to remember this date: Sunday March 7, 2021. Not only do the Hawkeyes host Wisconsin that day, but it is also the final day of the regular season. When looking at the conference standings going into and after that day, remember this loss to Minnesota. There's a chance it might come back to absolutely haunt this program which, in case you aren't keeping score, hasn't won a Big Ten regular season title in 42 years.
Happy Holidays, everyone.