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Iowa 81, Minnesota 71: Barn-burner

Iowa stands pat against a ferocious Minnesota rally to get a solid win on the road

NCAA Basketball: Iowa at Minnesota Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports

Keegan Murray and the Iowa Hawkeyes (13-4, 3-3 B1G) held off a ferocious rally by the Minnesota Gophers 10-5 (1-5 B1G) to bring home a 81-71 win on Sunday afternoon on the road at the Barn — a house of horrors for them in recent memory.

The Gophers, down to only eight scholarship players for the game, were simply over matched by the Hawkeyes for much of the game until late in the second half, where they ripped off a huge scoring run to cut a once 20+ point lead down to only 3. And yet, who else but Keegan Murray saved the day with an ice-cold shot from deep to silence the crowd — and put the Gophers to bed.

Murray of course clinched the game, but for 30+ minutes, the Hawkeyes were receiving great contributions from the entire bench. Murray finished the day with 25 points on 11-17 shooting, and added in 10 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks.

Beyond Keegan, Filip Rebraca had what I would argue was his best game in the black and gold. For the second game in a row, Iowa had great numbers off the glass on both ends of the court, and Rebraca’s hustle was a key part of why. He finished the day with 12 points and 12 rebounds — 6 on offense and 6 on defense — 3 steals and 2 blocks. Jordan Bohannon also contributed 12 points, while Patrick McCaffrey had 10. Kris Murray, a game removed from the best game of his career, logged 5 points off the bench.

Minnesota got out to a quick 7-2 start, but the Hawkeyes rallied back quickly, once again showing an emphasis on rebounding. Suddenly, Iowa had a 10-7 lead after five minutes of play. It looked like a back-and-forth matchup might be starting from there, but Iowa’s run, fueled by Murray, kept rolling, and suddenly it was a 22-15 lead halfway through the first half.

From there, it was all Iowa, as the offense exploded and the defense — and rebounding effort — continued. The biggest catalyst? Rebraca, who finally looked comfortable on both ends of the floor and showed grit underneath the basket.

Minnesota, meanwhile, just could not get stops, and could not get shots to fall on the other end of the court as Iowa’s lead ballooned, getting up to 33-19 with 5 minutes left in the half as Iowa took advantage of the Gopher scoring drought, punctuated by a steal and two-handed dunk from Keegan.

Minnesota wasn’t about go away, however. Even as Iowa’s lead continued to grow, the Gophers tried to not let the lead get wildly out of hand, despite going into halftime trailing 43-27.

The second half was much of the same from the get-go, continuing to be led by Murray, as they got out to a 49-31 lead after barely 3 minutes had passed, the largest lead of the day. It continued to blossom from there, as Minnesota’s issues from the first half — the lack of defensive rebounding and missing shots, came back to haunt the limited team. The Iowa lead quickly got out to 20. Then 23. And there were still over 14 minutes left to play. the clock ticked down, Minnesota started to make a run, cutting the lead down to 68-55 with 8:05 to play, bringing the Barn back to life as Iowa went on its first skid of the game. And suddenly, it was 70-60 with 6:30 left to play. Rebraca responded on another second-chance attempt to try and stop the bleeding...but Minnesota hit another 3 on the other end of the floor as part of a 17-4 scoring run.

Iowa looked lost as it tried to respond to the Gopher run. Everything that seemed to have been working earlier in the second half had stopped. Murray went quiet. Shots weren’t falling (and the shot selection was abysmal). Keegan even missed the front end of a 1-1 and free throws didn’t fall for Patrick McCaffery, either. Everything was suddenly going Minnesota’s way.

Iowa did all its could to let Minnesota get back into the game, limping into a 74-71 game with a minute to play...until Murray hit a crowd-quieting 3 pointer, and stuffed the Gopher shot on the other end of the floor, putting an end to the Minnesota run and allowing Hawkeye fans to exhale.

You obviously take the win here, but the shot selection late in the second half, up TWENTY PLUS, was inexcusable. But a win is a win — especially at the Barn. While it would have been nice for an uneventful road win, once again this team showed grit in the face of adversity late in the game and came out on top, in addition to the solid contributions I mentioned earlier.

There’s hope for this team — but I do think we have yet to see them play at full capacity.