Jordan Murphy and Amir Coffey each scored 23 points to help Minnesota hang on and beat No. 19 Iowa 92-87 on Sunday.
Freshman Gabe Kalscheur added 19 points, his most in a Big Ten game, to push the Gophers (15-5, 5-4) past the Hawkeyes (16-5, 5-5) into sixth place in the crowded conference race despite a late slump at the free-throw line that nearly derailed their upset.
Luka Garza matched his career high with 25 points and Isaiah Moss pitched in 23 points on 6-for-10 shooting from 3-point range, but the Hawkeyes didn’t bounce back with much energy from their 15-point loss at home to sixth-ranked Michigan State three nights earlier.
The Gophers, who stormed back strong from a two-point loss at fifth-ranked Michigan that capped a rough three-game stretch, posted their highest score in regulation of a Big Ten game since they had 95 points against Iowa on Feb. 25, 2014.
The Hawkeyes missed a prime opportunity to grab the momentum right after the intermission. The chance evaporated with a spate of missed jumpers, and the Gophers kept the crowd cranked up with a steady supply of highlight-reel possessions. Twice in a five-minute span, Dupree McBrayer finished a fast break off a steal with a lob to Coffey for a dunk.
Iowa enacted a three-quarters-of-the-court press without much success, with Minnesota owning a 25-9 assist-to-turnover ratio. Coffey’s 3-pointer stretched the lead to a game-high 81-65 with 5:50 to go.
The Hawkeyes didn’t head home quietly, though, thanks mostly to a late slump at the foul line by the Gophers. They missed 10 of 23 free throws in the second half, including seven of eight misfires in one stretch until McBrayer made one with 47 seconds remaining to push the lead to 85-80.
Garza hit a 3-pointer with 3:32 to go out of a timeout that had pulled the Hawkeyes within 81-76, but McBrayer and Kalscheur came through with some clutch defense down the stretch from their perimeter spots.
The Gophers nearly matched their most recent final score with a 55-point first half. They lost 59-57 at fifth-ranked Michigan on Tuesday when the Wolverines won with a baseline jumper at the buzzer.
Murphy was the catalyst, whether backing down the bigger Cook or Garza for an all-muscle layup in the lane or flicking a high-low pass to fellow frontcourt mates Matz Stockman or Eric Curry from the heart of Iowa’s zone defense. The 6-foot-7, 250-pound senior even swished a 3-pointer to beat the halftime horn, just his fourth make from long distance this season.
Moss helped keep the Hawkeyes within realistic range of a rally by making all four of his 3-point tries in the first half, and Cook and Garza combined for 23 points off just 14 field goal attempts over the first 20 minutes. Garza’s layup with 6:02 left before the break gave the Hawkeyes a 37-36 lead, but that was their last of the game.
(content and photo courtesy of Gopher Sports)