Fran-Graphs, Minnesota

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[Photo credit: AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall]

In many ways the game Wednesday night was the polar opposite of several other games the Hawks have played recently:

  • Whereas Iowa shot a better percentage than Indiana and yet lost due to offensive rebounding, turnovers and free throws, against Minnesota, all four categories switched: Iowa shot a pretty miserable percentage from the field while Minnesota shot very well, especially from three. If it weren't for Iowa's 16 offensive rebounds, 11 steals and +12 margin in free throw attempts, the Hawks would have been hard-pressed to overcome their poor shooting. Zach McCabe, Aaron White and Melsahn Basabe deserve credit for their rebounding, grabbing three offensive rebounds each. White recorded a crucial (and awesome) play on an offensive rebound, throwing down a nasty dunk on 6'11" Elliott Eliason after sprinting down from the three point line to collect the board.
  • Whereas Minnesota struggled to make threes against Iowa's zone in their previous match-up, in this game, the shots were falling. The Gophers shot 10-19 from three, even though many of the shots were contested. They needed those threes, too, because they shot just 10-32 from two-point range. Julian Welch in particular seemed to give the Hawks fits, finding holes in the zone and going 3-5 from three.
  • Whereas Minnesota was the team that looked totally befuddled by the zone in their previous game, in this game it was Iowa that looked lost when the Gophers ran a zone. The Hawks spent long stretches of the game looking totally lost on offense. It's no exaggeration to say that on several possessions in the second half, the offense consisted of Devyn Marble or Matt Gatens or Bryce Cartwright pounding the ball into the ground at the three-point line while no one else on the team moved an inch.
The beginning and the end of the game was excellent, but there was an atrocious performance smuggled in there for about 25 minutes in between. Iowa surged out to a 15-3 lead in the first eight minutes, then relaxed, gave up a series of three-point plays and regular threes, and found themselves down 27-24 at half. The second half looked to be no better, as the no-movement offense set in. You can see how the Hawks' performance plateaued at the end of the first and beginning of the second half:
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At one point it looked like Minnesota was on the verge of blowing Iowa out of the game, going up 10 points with 12 minutes left. To the Hawks' credit, they didn't fold and kept chipping away at the lead. Via free throws, two Gatens threes, a Gatens layup off his very heads-up steal, and a tough layup in the open court by Bryce Cartwright, the Hawks put themselves in striking distance, down five with three and a half minutes left. And then Devyn Marble finished the game with four straight excellent plays: he knocked down a three in transition to cut the lead to two, fought through a screen to contest a corner three, which Andre Hollins missed, then did this:

That tied the game, and after two free throws by Cartwright and a missed jumper by Welch, Marble ran the clock down to about 15 seconds, then drove to the basket, narrowly avoided a charge, and slipped the pass to Gatens for the clinching layup. Minnesota probably regrets allowing Iowa to run the clock down like they did. Ideally Iowa would have missed a shot and given Minnesota the ball with a chance to tie or win, but that was the only way things could have gone well for the Gophers. If they had chosen to foul, on the other hand, the number of ways the game could have ended in their favor would have increased significantly (especially considering Iowa's poor foul shooting).

All in all, it felt like a game that Iowa should have won, but normally would have lost through carelessness, but managed to win in the end anyway, if that makes sense. They looked like the stronger team for 10 minutes, fell asleep for 20 minutes, then went back to being the stronger team for the last 10 minutes, so a four-point win seems about right.

Stray observations:

  • Ross mentioned it last night, but Basabe really played well in his reserve role. He had eight points, seven rebounds, and two steals in 25 minutes of play. His highlights were a sweet spin move for a layup and a steal where he took it coast to coast and finished with a dunk.
  • No Eric May, who was out with a back injury. May has struggled on offense this year, but you notice his absence on the defensive end. Fran went off on McCabe and Cartwright on a couple of occasions for being slow to rotate on the perimeter and allowing three-pointers to go up. May is much better on that kind of thing.
  • Not surprisingly, May's absence meant that the freshmen had to step up and play more minutes. White and Oglesby have gone from seldom-used reserves to key parts of the rotation. Oglseby's excellent three-point touch seemed to abandon him in this game, but Minnesota also made sure to get in his face at the perimeter.
  • Carver went ultra-budget on the entertainment last night, with a pre-recorded national anthem and a flash-mob student line-dance as the half-time show. And it was okay! A to-the-point, non-warbly national anthem is actually pretty awesome, and the line dance was at least amusing. They also debuted a feature during one of the timeouts where they turned the cameras on people who were obliviously locked into their smart phones, which was funny.
  • The stadium wasn't sold out, but did seem to get very loud, especially toward the end of the game when the comeback started.
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