Minneapolis, Minn. — As he walked across the Kohl Center court Saturday afternoon, a victory over No. 11 Wisconsin in the books, Iowa coach Fran McCaffery tried to put the upset into perspective.
“It gives us a sense of what we’re capable of,” McCaffery said. “The bottom line is you’ve got to get one like this. That leads to more, hopefully.”
Winning on the road in the Big Ten is not an easy proposition, especially for an Iowa program that has gone through four consecutive losing seasons for the first time in program history. But on Wednesday, Iowa will be attempting to win back-to-back league road games for the first time since the 2006-07 season when it plays Minnesota in an 8 p.m. game at Williams Arena.
Entering this season, Iowa had won a total of two Big Ten road games over the past three seasons – none in 2008-09 and at Indiana in both 2009-10 and 2010-11. The 2007-08 Hawkeye team is the last one to win a pair of Big Ten road games in the same season.
Saturday’s victory was the first for Iowa over a rated Big Ten team on the road since 2006, when it handled No. 21 Indiana. It was the Hawkeyes’ most significant league road win since a 67-64 victory over No. 5 Ohio State in 2001.
“We had a big win Saturday,” McCaffery said. “But it doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got to come back and have the same kind of effort on the road in a very difficult environment (tonight). So we’ll see if we have the kind of maturity that can handle that.”
The Gophers are the only unranked team Iowa will play over a five-game stretch that started at Wisconsin. Wednesday’s game is following by contests against No. 6 Ohio State at home Saturday; at No. 10 Michigan State Tuesday; and No. 16 Michigan at home Jan. 14.
Iowa last won back-to-back Big Ten road games in the 2006-07 season, at Michigan and Minnesota. The Gophers have won the last six games in the series since then.
Minnesota, 12-3 overall, is off to a 0-2 start in Big Ten play. The Gophers lost in double overtime at Illinois and had Michigan on the ropes in Ann Arbor before losing, 61-56, on Sunday.
Coach Tubby Smith has had to reinvent his team after losing double-double machine Trevor Mbakwe to a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a Nov. 27 game against Dayton.
Rodney Williams has rotated from small forward to power forward in Mbakwe’s absence, and Smith also has a cast of guards that enables him to play at a faster pace.
Iowa likes to play up-tempo, too. Bryce Cartwright, rounding back into the form that made him the Big Ten’s leading assist man last season, pushed the issue on Wisconsin by attacking on the dribble and scoring in transition. The Gophers would welcome a track meet versus a half-court slugfest.
“ “We have to be careful, because they can explode,” McCaffery said.
WHO: Iowa (9-6, 1-1 Big Ten) at Minnesota (12-3, 0-2)
WHERE: Williams Arena, Minneapolis, Minn.
TIPOFF: 8 p.m.
TELEVISON: Big Ten Network.
RADIO: WHO-AM (1040), Des Moines and Hawkeye Radio Network.
STAT LEADERS: For Iowa — Matt Gatens 13.3 ppg; Melsahn Basabe 6.3 rpg; Bryce Cartwright 4.1 apg; For Minnesota – Julian Welch 10.3 ppg; Ralph Sampson III 5.1 rpg; Welch 2.5 apg.
ABOUT THE HAWKEYES: Iowa has six players averaging between 7.1 and 13.3 points a game. “We’re harder to guard,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.
LIVE CHAT ON WEDNESDAY
Rick Brown of The Des Moines Register will answer your questions about the Iowa men’s basketball team and the Big Ten Conference during a live chat on Wednesday at HawkCentral.com, beginning at 12:30 p.m.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball