Iowa Men's Basketball

For Iowa men's basketball, Christmas was for giving ... a game away

Hawkeyes cough up 7-point lead in final minute of regulation, lose 102-95 to Minnesota in OT

Iowa center Luka Garza (55) works to the basket as Minnesota forward Isaiah Ihnen (35) defends during the Hawkeyes' 102-
Iowa center Luka Garza (55) works to the basket as Minnesota forward Isaiah Ihnen (35) defends during the Hawkeyes' 102-95 overtime loss to the Gophers at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. (Bruce Kluckhohn/Associated Press)

MINNEAPOLIS — If there had been any fans in Williams Arena Friday night, they surely would have been chanting “Overrated!”

That’s how fans are, you know, and that’s what they do when their team knocks off the No. 4 team in the latest men’s basketball rankings. That was Iowa, and it won’t be No. 4 come Monday. Not with that kind of defense.

A senior forward named Brandon Johnson shot himself into the hearts of Golden Gopher fans, sinking four 3-pointers in the first 3:14 of overtime to lift Minnesota past Iowa, 102-95.

Johnson made all but one of his nine 3-point tries in the game, after going 2-for-10 from distance over his first eight games as a Gopher.

“Obviously we didn’t expect 8-for-9,” Iowa guard CJ Fredrick said. “But once a guy gets rolling you’ve got to adjust. It doesn’t matter what his percentage is. He was feeling it and we just let him get too comfortable.”

Johnson transferred here after averaging 15 points last season for Western Michigan. He was averaging six for Minnesota before his 26 Friday, which nicely supplemented guard Marcus Carr’s 30.

The Gophers’ win seemed improbable when Iowa held an 80-73 lead with 44 seconds left in regulation. But Carr made a 3 a little later to cut the deficit to 81-78. It was 83-80 when Minnesota fouled Iowa sophomore Joe Toussaint, who had been 4-of-4 from the line at the time and an 81-percent career free-throw shooter.

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With 14.9 seconds left, Toussaint missed both shots of the double-bonus. Carr hit another 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds remaining, and Iowa didn’t get a good shot before time expired.

Johnson started the overtime scoring with a 3-pointer, and went bang-bang-bang after that for a 7-point Minnesota lead that didn’t dissolve like Iowa’s did late in the second half.

“Johnson was open,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “There’s no excuse for that. I think we’ve got to do a better job of adjusting to a guy who gets hot, so that’s disappointing.”

Seven-footer Liam Robbins of Davenport, a transfer to Minnesota from Drake, added a 3-pointer with 23 seconds left for cushion. It was the Gophers’ 17th 3.

For too long Friday night, the Hawkeyes couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn in The Barn. Senior center Luka Garza, stymied in the first half by smothering double-teaming, had 5 points at halftime on 2-of-11 shooting.

“In the first half I was just missing layups,” Garza said.

“Credit to them for their game plan, but the way I look at it I was just missing layups and I’ve got to be better for my team.”

Garza didn’t go quietly, finishing with 32 points, and 17 rebounds, 11 on the offensive glass. The numbers were no salve.

“We had this game won,” he said. “To lose a game like that is tough.

“We let one guy shoot the same shot over and over again and he was hot.”

CJ Fredrick gave the Hawkeyes a big lift in their second-half rally, and had a career-high 23. He was 5-of-6 from 3-point distance while his teammates were a combined 5-of-24.

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“We gave it away,” Fredrick said. “We had this game won. That’s why it hurts. Just mental lapses at the end of the game.

“Also credit to them, they hit tough, tough shots to end that game, but I think we just gave that one away.”

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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