IOWA CITY, Ia. – The sellout crowd gave Iowa’s Eric May a standing ovation when he left the game for good Sunday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“It makes you want to play five more years here,” the Hawkeyes’ lone senior said after a 72-51 victory against Minnesota.
May was one of five players to score in double figures as Iowa improved to 17-9 overall and 6-7 in the Big Ten. His dunk squelched one Gophers comeback in the second half. His 3-pointer with just under 9 minutes to play was the final dagger.
“He’s arguably playing better than anybody else we have right now,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of May, who also had a team-high seven rebounds, two steals and no turnovers.
Two numbers — 2 and 12 — sum up this victory over a team that has been ranked as high as 8th nationally, spent three weeks in the Top 10 and fell out of the poll this week for the first time since November.
McCaffery’s three-quarters-court 1-2-2 press is called “12.” His 2-3 zone is called “2’. Two and 12 turned a 16-point deficit into a 21-point victory.
Minnesota, falling to 6-7 in the Big Ten and 18-8 overall, jumped out to a 21-5 lead just 7 minutes into the game. That’s when McCaffery went to his zone press and his half-court zone defense, one that alternates between a 2-3 and a 3-2 depending on the way the offense attacks it. The Gophers fell apart.
“Embarrassing,” Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said.
After scoring 21 points in the first 7 minutes, it took the Gophers 27:32 of game time to score another 21.
“We let up a little, and that’s something we can’t do,” Minnesota’s Austin Hollins said. “ When we’re beating down on a team like that, we’ve got to keep the throttle on them and put them away.”
Iowa’s quicksilver rally turned that 16-point deficit into a 34-29 halftime lead.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen such a dramatic turnaround in such a short time of any team I’ve had, to be honest with you,” Smith said. “About as disappointing a loss as I’ve ever had, in the way we reacted to the zone and to the press with the turnovers.”
The press took Minnesota’s aggressiveness away.
“It got them playing east and west instead of north and south,” McCaffery said.
No one in a Minnesota uniform looked like he wanted to shoot. Panic set in.
“Oh yeah, don’t give it to me,” Smith said. “It was like a hot potato.”
Minnesota didn’t score on back-to-back possessions from the time it had a 21-5 lead to the 12:38 mark of the second half. The Gophers had possession to score again, down 42-35, when Melsahn Basabe made a steal, tightroped the sideline and passed to May in full stride for a dunk. May was fouled on the play and added the free throw, with 12:04 to play.
“Mel made a spectacular play,” May said. “Those plays spark energy, spark a run, and allow us to win games.”
Four possessions later, May swished a 3-pointer from the right corner with 8:49 to go. Ballgame.
May added two free throws and something new to the arsenal, a step-back jumper, before McCaffery took him out to the standing ovation.
“It makes me feel really good,” May said.
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball