Gophers cough up 20-point lead in 90-85 loss to Iowa

The Gophers men’s basketball team completely unraveled in a 90-85 loss to Iowa in a Sunday matinee at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City.

Minnesota had opened a 62-42 lead with 16 minutes left, but the Hawkeyes took over once Dawson Garcia was injured and the red-hot shooting Gophers went ice cold. Minnesota missed 16 of its final 20 shots as Iowa stormed back to sweep the season series.

Like the lead, Minnesota’s recent momentum has gone poof.

The Gophers (15-8, 6-6 Big Ten) watched a three-game winning streak end alongside their chance for its second straight Quad 1 win after its 59-56 victory over Michigan State on Tuesday.

Iowa (14-10, 6-7), a 7.5-point favorite, outscored Minnesota 52-34 in the second half. A huge 19-2 run over five minutes turned the game on its axis.

“We lost our edge,” Gophers head coach Ben Johnson said on the KFAN postgame show. “We are good when we have our edge, when we have that fight to us, when we have that nasty to us. When we lost it, it just snowballed.”

Garcia was cruising with a team-high 18 points when he was injured while playing defense on a Hawkeyes drive to the basket during the second half. He exited the game with 15 minutes remaining due to an apparent groin injury. He went into the locker room and came back to the bench, but didn’t return to the floor.

“I don’t really know much,” Johnson said about Garcia’s specific injury. “I just know he wasn’t able to go back in the game.”

The Hawkeyes went small with four guards on the court, and the U mirrored that lineup. Iowa trapped and sped the U up on ball screens, Johnson said.

Minnesota made only one of its final 11 3-pointers after making 11 of their opening 15 from deep. A fair amount of the attempts rimmed in and out.

The U had not led in any of its first 11 Big Ten games but were up 51-38 at the break Sunday. The comeback kids fell victim to what has become their own style.

The Gophers were able to stake a big lead and keep it despite four players — Elijah Hawkins, Pharrel Payne, Isaiah Ihnen and Parker Fox — getting into foul trouble. Hawkins and Payne played fewer than six minutes apiece in the first half.

In the first half, Garcia had 18 points on 7-of-8 shooting, while Mike Mitchell Jr. and Braeden Carrington each added 11 points. Minnesota made 8 of 12 from 3-point range in the opening 20 minutes.

To start the second half, Cam Christie had two treys and Mitchell hit another as the U’s lead grew to 20 points with 16:11 remaining. Carrington scored a season-high 18 points after totaling only six across the previous four games.

The Hawkeyes almost scored 90 on the Gophers in their first matchup, an 86-77 win on Jan. 15. Hawkeyes big man Ben Krikke hurt the U with a team-high 25 points in that win. On Sunday, it was guards Payton Sandford and Patrick McCaffery, who each had 21 points.

The Gophers will now travel to No. 2 Purdue for a second straight road game on Thursday.

“Obviously take a long look at the film, break it down, figure out what areas we need to make sure we get better at and get ready for Purdue,” Johnson said on the radio. “… After this one, it’s about us coming into the game. You do a lot of good things to put yourself in position, like we were — a lot of good things — and now we got to figure out where the breakdowns happen and why.”

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