Though Iowa all but squandered away any chance at a Big Ten title with another close loss, the Hawkeyes are still on track to end an eight-year NCAA tournament drought.
Sputtering Minnesota has a much smaller margin for error in its quest for its fourth NCAA bid in six seasons.
The 20th-ranked Hawkeyes open a stretch of three games in six days Tuesday night when they visit Minnesota.
Iowa (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten) held a one-point edge with 1:01 remaining Saturday against visiting Wisconsin, but the then-No. 16 Badgers ended the game on an 8-2 run, handing the Hawkeyes a 79-74 defeat. Their seven losses have come by a combined 34 points, all against clubs currently ranked in the top 25. They're now 2 1/2 games behind conference-leading Michigan with five contests left to play, essentially eliminating themselves from the league title race.
With wins over the Wolverines and at Ohio State and no unsightly losses, Fran McCaffery's club likely only needs to avoid a disastrous finish to reach the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006. However, a strong end-of-season run is still crucial in terms of seeding.
Two days after visiting the Golden Gophers, Iowa heads to Indiana for a game that was initially scheduled for last Tuesday, but was postponed when a piece of metal fell from the ceiling at Assembly Hall earlier that day. On Sunday the Hawkeyes will host Purdue.
"If we'd won it would be the same thing," McCaffery said after the loss to Wisconsin. "I don't look at that any differently. You've got a brutal week, two road games and a home game against three really good teams."
Roy Devyn Marble had 21 points and 11 assists against the Badgers for his first career double-double and Josh Oglesby was 8 of 12 for 17 points. However, Iowa was again let down by 3-point shooting, going 4 of 14 from beyond the arc. The Hawkeyes are shooting 24.2 percent from long distance in their five conference losses compared to a 38.8 percent mark in all other games.
With second-leading rebounder Melsahn Basabe (6.3 rpg) limited to one minute of action due to an illness, Iowa was also outrebounded for just the second time in league play.
The Hawkeyes have played well immediately following losses, going 6-0. They've also won four of five in the series, including a 94-73 home victory over Minnesota on Jan. 19 that marked the Gophers' most lopsided defeat of the season.
Minnesota's (17-11, 6-9) chances for an NCAA at-large bid appear to be slipping away rapidly with the club dropping six of eight. The Gophers were in good position for a resume-building victory with a 12-point second-half advantage at then-No. 24 Ohio State on Saturday, but ultimately lost 64-46.
They shot 29.2 percent in the second half while the Buckeyes hit 56.7 percent in the final 20 minutes. Minnesota had held them to 27.3 percent shooting in the first half.
"Obviously, great first half, awful second half," coach Richard Pitino said. "We highjack ourselves. We don't allow ourselves to win."
Minnesota also struggled in the second half of its 62-49 loss to Illinois last Wednesday, getting outscored 38-22. Andre Hollins accounted for 15 of the Gophers' 40 second-half points over the last two games.
Hollins scored 20 in the first meeting while Aaron White led Iowa with 18.
Minnesota holds a 101-92 series advantage.
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