After a Big Ten season of putting away lesser foes, Iowa finally played down to a conference foe—and it nearly cost the Hawkeyes dearly. The game's final score was 75-71, and despite this being a "worst vs. first" conference game, that's entirely indicative of how close the game was. A listless first fifteen minutes left Iowa struggling to even keep pace with the Gophers, and Iowa's biggest lead of the entire game was 10 points. Jarrod Uthoff was your man of the match with 24 points (two behind Peter Jok for the team lead), and he added 15 rebounds and six blocks to the total.
Still, Uthoff was uncharacteristically cold to start the game, missing his first seven shots (including a few at the rim) before hitting four straight to finish the first half on track. Uthoff was far from the only Hawkeye to struggle, though; Iowa was shaky at the free throw line down the stretch once again, the 2-3 zone was a step slow once again, and the young bench looked ill-equipped to handle the rigors of Big Ten competition once again. Remember how we said not to panic after that Indiana loss? This was a win, but uh... yikes.
All right, let's put away the doom and gloom for a bit, though. There's something that must go on at halftime in the Iowa locker room—and nobody will officially confirm this, but our sources* swear it's true. As Peter Jok receives a transfusion of Michael Jordan's blood mixed with ghost peppers and horse stimulants. The results are undeniable; Jok is one of the most lethal scorers you've ever seen coming out of the break, to the point where his 11 points in the first seven minutes of the half didn't even feel like a surprise.
*who do not exist
Also, Mike Gesell proved again that he's the engine of the offense, notching 12 assists without committing a turnover. Indeed, he was probably the only sharp offensive player for the duration of the night, and one shudders to think of the carnage at Carver if Gesell had just had an average outing.
Mike Gesell is just the fourth Division I player with 12+ assists and 0 turnovers in a game this season.— Matt Benson (@mbenson6) February 15, 2016
Iowa's KenPom ranking will take its second straight hit (almost assuredly one of Iowa's worst of the season), and there'll be no RPI bump for dispatching the lowly Gophers, who fall to 0-13 in Big Ten play. If Iowa wasn't a 1-seed in whatever mock bracket you're a fan of, it sure didn't play its way in on Saturday night.
And yet the Hawkeyes are in first place, all by themselves, in the Big Ten with just five conference games to play. It's the other teams that have no margin of error down the stretch (though we would not recommend any error on Iowa's part). The Big Ten regular season championship is right there for the taking. But it'll take more than what Iowa showed on Sunday night.