Few things give me as much satisfaction as a sports fan as watching Iowa stuff Minnesota in a trash can. So let me tell you: I enjoyed the hell out of Monday night's game. Iowa stomped a mudhole in Minnesota and walked it dry, winning 72-52 to improve to 7-3 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten.
The big story leading into the game was the match-up between two of the Big Ten's best post players, reigning Big Ten Player of the Week Luka Garza and Minnesota's Daniel Oturu. They entered the game 1-2 in the league in scoring (Garza is leading the conference with 22.5 ppg, while Oturu is averaging 18.0 ppg) and 1-4 in the league in rebounding (Oturu leads the Big Ten with 11 rpg, while Garza is fourth with 9.8 rpg). Their showdown did not disappoint. Oturu had the early advantage as Garza struggled to get by Oturu in the paint and had a hard time finishing shots. He made just one of his first five shots and was 3/9 from the floor in the first half for just seven points, though he did have six rebounds. Oturu had 11 points (on 5/5 shooting), 5 rebounds, 3 blocks, and a steal in the first half.
The Peacock found his mojo in the second half, though, and spread his plumage all over the Gophers. Garza went to work down low and was back to his usual brilliant self, scoring 14 points on 5/8 shooting, including a three-pointer. He also went 3/4 at the line while adding four rebounds, two assists, a block, and a steal. This was the Garza we've become accustomed to watching this year and it was a damn fun sight to see. Oturu did manage to keep pace on the scoreboard -- he had 11 points on 5/7 shooting -- and also on the glass -- he had another 7 rebounds -- but he also hurt the Gophers with six turnovers. And they could have easily called several more traveling calls on Oturu's constantly-sliding feet.
Minnesota coughed the ball up nine times in the second half, which led to 11 Iowa points. That helped Iowa stretch their 8-point halftime lead (37-29) into a double-digit lead for most of the second half, pushing it out to 20 by the end of the game. The other thing that helped Iowa turn the game into a rout? The Gophers couldn't buy a bucket in the second half. Oturu made five of his seven attempts; the rest of the Gopher team shot just 5/21 from the floor after halftime. Overall, Minnesota shot 35.7% from the floor and only 20% from 3-point range in the second half. Iowa didn't post spectacular shooting numbers in the second half -- 42.9% from the floor, 44.4% (4/9) from deep, plus 7/11 from the free throw line -- but they were more than good enough in the face of a Minnesota offense that curled up into a ball and died.
And, hey, that's worth noting -- and worth celebrating -- after Iowa's defensive performance in their previous game. It's an outright comical juxtaposition in back-to-back games:
- Iowa allowed 103 points against Michigan on Friday night.
- Iowa allowed just 52 points against Minnesota tonight.
Almost exactly 50% fewer points!
Oturu got his in the game, but he got no help from his teammates. Outside of Oturu, Gopher players shot just 11/45 from the floor. Marcus Carr, Gabe Kalscheur, and Payton Willis combined to shoot 3/29 overall and 2/19 from outside. The number of games you can win with your starting back court putting up numbers like that is precisely zero. There were some open looks that were simply missed, but Iowa's defense also deserves credit for a much improved effort in this game. They forced 15 turnovers (including six steals) and were able to harass Minnesota into a bevy of mistakes. That was great to see just a few days after Michigan did whatever they wanted on offense against Iowa.
And while Oturu got no help from his teammates, Garza got plenty of help from his Iowa teammates -- and one teammate in particular. Joe Wieskamp's had a somewhat stuttering start to the season so far, but he cast off those struggles in a big way tonight -- and right from the jump. Wieskamp had 11 of Iowa's first 13 points in the game and drained his first three three-pointers. He finished the first half with 16 points on 5/10 shooting (4/6 from long range) and three rebounds. It was wonderful to see Wieskamp making shots, of course, but it was even better to see him playing so aggressively on offense; he was looking for his shot early and often and that was great to see.
Wieskamp had 7 points on 3/5 shooting after halftime, to go with three rebounds, an assist, and two blocks -- but he also had the sequence of the game when he blocked a Minnesota shot at the three-point line, collected the ball, and tore off down the court before finishing with a thunderous two-hand dunk.
That was so nice I think we need to watch it twice.
Yep. Definitely needed to watch it twice.
That play snapped a 7-0 run from Minnesota that had chopped Iowa's lead down to 10 and effectively zapped whatever fight was left in the Gophers. It was chips and salsa time for Iowa from that point on.
Iowa also got 10 points from C.J. Fredrick on 4/7 shooting, while Connor McCaffery had 8 points (including two three-pointers!), four rebounds, and two assists. Ryan Kriener added 6 points and 5 rebounds off the bench, while Joe Toussaint found ways to impact the game (3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) even as his shot was struggling (just 1/4 from the floor). And finally, Jordan Bohannon had one of the stranger box scores of his career: 0 points on 0/4 shooting (0/2 from deep), but 10 assists... and 0 turnovers. Iowa didn't need Bohannon's buckets today and his assists helped keep Iowa's offense clicking all night long.
There's really nothing to complain about when you stomp a border rival by 20 points. Minnesota is a flawed team this year, but Iowa did exactly what they needed to do against a team like that and took care of business at home. This performance felt like a great response to the defense-free loss to Michigan on Friday night, too. Now can we bottle up this performance and take it to Ames on Thursday night?
NEXT: It's time for some Cy-Hawk action as Iowa takes on Iowa State on Thursday night (7 PM CT, ESPN2).