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Big early lead, Garcia’s 30 points not enough as Gophers fall to Iowa

The Big Ten historically has been a league where rugged and physical basketball rules — where size wins over speed.

Third-year Gophers men's basketball coach Ben Johnson introduced a faster pace this season, but staying true to that identity recently has been tougher in league play.

Junior forward Dawson Garcia finished with 30 points Monday night, but a second-half comeback fell short with the Gophers allowing rival Iowa to score 56 points in the paint in an 86-77 loss in front of an announced crowd of 8,379 at Williams Arena.

"We talked about being able to control the paint," Johnson said. "… We didn't do a very good job of doing that. We've got to figure that piece out."

The Gophers (12-5, 3-3 Big Ten) have now suffered back-to-back losses after a seven-game winning streak. They've allowed 94 points in the paint in two games, including last Friday's 74-62 loss at Indiana.

Garcia finished with his second 30-point game this season, which included a career-high 36 points in a Dec. 3 loss at Ohio State. The 6-11 junior shot 9-for-17 from the field and 12-for-15 from the foul line.

The Hawkeyes (11-6, 3-3) had no answer for Garcia, but they shot 60% from the field in the second half. Ben Krikke and Josh Dix combined for 27 of their 46 points in the second half. Iowa scored inside and out but also off backdoor cuts and second-chance baskets.

The Gophers had pressured past teams into mistakes that led to transition points. Johnson's game plan to force the bigger Hawkeyes to adapt to his up-tempo team worked early.

Less than two minutes into the game, the Barn crowd erupted when Gophers high-flyer Joshua Ola-Joseph slammed an alley-oop pass from Elijah Hawkins after one of Iowa's four quick turnovers. Ola-Joseph had 15 points.

The Gophers led 14-3, but the Hawkeyes settled down to take control with a 25-6 run.

"I think it's pretty evident that we didn't execute that part of the game plan," Garcia said. "That's unacceptable, so we have to hold ourselves accountable, be honest with ourselves and flip the page."

Outside shooting was again atrocious with the Gophers going 5-for-29 from three-point range. They're shooting 14-for-72 from long distance in the last three games.

Cam Christie had 10 of his 12 points in the second half Monday, but the Gophers' other starting guards Elijah Hawkins and Mike Mitchell Jr. combined for just eight points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field, including 1-for-10 from three.

Iowa led 59-47 midway through the second half when Garcia scored 12 of his team's next 15 points. Pharrel Payne's only field goal made it 67-62 with just under five minutes to play, but that ended the rally.

BOXSCORE: Iowa 86, Gophers 77

Home wins against Nebraska and Maryland didn't prepare the Gophers enough to do battle with the bigger and tougher Hoosiers and Hawkeyes.

Playing fast might not be sustainable in the Big Ten for the Gophers, who hope to end their slide Thursday at Michigan State. They might need to play more through Garcia and Payne.

Payne, who had 17 points and 10 rebounds at Indiana, had only three points in 14 minutes Monday. Johnson considered starting the 6-9 sophomore forward with Garcia, but the Gophers went with their smaller lineup that needed more inside punch.

"He wasn't 100 percent [Monday]," Johnson said of Payne cramping. "We've got to find a way to get him back to feeling good. Obviously, it hurts when he's not out there."