Freshman Nolen finds offense, leads Minn. to 63-50 win over Iowa

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Freshman Al Nolen gave Minnesota a lift in the second half and finished with 11 points, eight assists and three steals to lead the Gophers to a 63-50 victory over Iowa on Saturday.

Damien Johnson had nine points and seven rebounds and Spencer Tollackson scored 11 for Minnesota (15-7, 5-5 Big Ten), which has now won two in a row to bounce back from a skid of four losses in five games.

Justin Johnson scored 15 points and Tony Freeman had 12, five assists and five rebounds for the Hawkeyes (11-14, 4-8), who took a 42-41 lead after a three-point play by Cyrus Tate midway through the second half.

That’s when the super-quick Nolen took over, knifing into the passing lanes to create turnovers and scoring on drives to the basket and from the outside.

He got a steal and a layup to get things going, then hit a 3-pointer, scored on a drive to the basket and set up a dunk by Damien Johnson after blowing past Tate on a switch to key a 16-3 run by the Gophers.

Blake Hoffarber capped the burst with a 3-pointer that gave Minnesota a 57-45 lead with 2:49 to go, and the Gophers never looked back.

It was Nolen’s best performance since returning from a thigh injury that caused him to miss a home game against Michigan State on Jan. 20.

In the four games before this one, Nolen managed just three points total.

Iowa committed 21 turnovers and just couldn’t handle Nolen’s quickness and aggressive defense and has now taken a step back with two straight losses and three in its last four games.

After a poor showing in nonconference play, the Hawkeyes seemed to be making strides under first-year coach Todd Lickliter with victories over Michigan State and Ohio State in a tough opening to Big Ten play.

But they only managed one sustained challenge on Saturday and couldn’t overcome a poor start that saw them trailing 8-0 in the first 3:30.

The Hawkeyes were sloppy throughout the first half, committing 10 turnovers in every fashion imaginable. They had a 10-second violation while struggling with Minnesota’s full court pressure, Freeman was whistled for traveling while trying to wiggle out of a trap at midcourt, and were called for a backcourt violation and two shot clock violations.

But they hit their 3-pointers, making five of nine attempts in the first half, and only trailed 26-22 with 4:10 to go in the half.

The Gophers finally started making some shots, with Lawrence McKenzie sinking two 3s and Dan Coleman stripping the ball from Seth Gorney at the top of the key and racing the other way for a big dunk to gave them a nine-point lead going into halftime.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
Tony Freeman Tony Freeman
4-10,  12 Pts
5 Rebs, 5 Assists
Al Nolen Al Nolen
4-6,  11 Pts
4 Rebs, 8 Assists

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Saturday, Feb 9