MINNEAPOLIS — The Gophers men’s basketball team was demolished in a 27-point loss to Illinois in the Big Ten opener 10 days ago.
Minnesota bounced back to beat a quality St. Louis team last weekend and had another opportunity to show it could hang with the conference’s best in fourth-ranked Iowa on Christmas night at Williams Arena.
The Gophers led by as many as 12 points in the first half and trailed by eight in the second half before rallying for a 102-95 overtime win over the Hawkeyes.
Marcus Carr buried a 3-pointer from the wing to tie the game at 83 and Jordan Bohannon missed a 3 at the buzzer to go to OT.
Then the Gophers’ biggest surprise — power forward Brandon Johnson — continued to stay white-hot. Johnson made all four 3-pointers he attempted in OT and went 8 for 9 from deep in the game for 26 points. The Western Michigan transfer came into Friday’s game shooting 2 of 10 from 3-point range.
He was mobbed by teammates on the court after the game and Jamal Mashburn Jr. gave him the game ball.
Spanning both halves, the Hawkeyes’ put together a 21-5 run to take them from down 35-24 to up 45-40 with five minutes gone in the second half. But they couldn’t put it away in regulation.
Iowa’s All-America center Luka Garza was limited to five points on 2-of-11 shooting in the first half but broke free with 27 points to lead the comeback after the break.
The Gophers (8-1, 1-1 Big Ten) often brought a second defender to Garza in the first half, and it kept the nation’s leading scorer and the Big Ten’s highest-scoring team from establishing a flow.
Carr led the Gophers with 30 points. He eclipsed 1,000 career points in the first half with a game-high 15 in the first half.
In Friday’s first half, Minnesota led by as many as 12, but Iowa had a 10-3 run to cut the lead down to 38-33 at the half.
The Gophers’ defensive effort produced results as the Hawkeyes missed nine straight shots and went nearly six minutes without a bucket. Minnesota, meanwhile, had a 12-1 run to go up 21-11.
Iowa had five turnovers, which turned into nine Minnesota points. They were able to pester Garza with a second defender often coming to trap him in the post.
They were also able to keep Garza in check with Liam Robbins suffering two fouls and sat for the last 13 minutes of the half.