MINNEAPOLIS – Austin Hollins scored a career-high 27 points on 8-for-10 shooting, DeAndre Mathieu had 19 points and seven assists and Minnesota bounced back from a monthlong slump with a 95-89 victory over No. 20 Iowa on Tuesday night.
Hollins made all seven of his free throws for the Gophers (18-11, 7-9 Big Ten), who won for just the third time in their last nine games by making 13 of their last 14 free throws over the final 70 seconds. Charles Buggs came off the end of the bench to score a career-high 13 points.
Roy Devyn Marble had only five of his 24 points in the second half for the Hawkeyes (19-8, 8-6), who have their first two-game losing streak of the season. All six of their previous defeats were by teams currently ranked in the top 22 of the latest Associated Press poll.
Aaron White added 21 points, and Josh Oglesby scored 16 in his first start of the season.
After managing just 54, 49 and 46 points in each of their last three games, the Gophers snapped to life with a 51-point first half. Needing another win over a top team like this badly to reboot their NCAA tournament bid and climb back toward the upper half of the conference, they posted their season-high score while shooting 30 for 49 from the field (61.2 percent).
The Hawkeyes fell into a fifth-place tie in the conference with Nebraska, which plays last-place Illinois on Wednesday.
The Gophers grabbed a lead as big as 13 points under the 81/2-minute mark, but the Hawkeyes cranked up their defense after that and pushed their way back. White knocked down a 3-pointer from the wing to whittle the deficit to 80-76 after a 9-0 spurt.
Marble tipped in a missed layup by Mike Gesell for his first field goal of the second half and was pushed in the back by Joey King in the process with 1:30 left, converting the three-point play to cut the lead to 82-80.
But Mathieu followed with two free throws and Oglesby air-balled a 3-point attempt after that. Mo Walker made all four of his free throws in the final minute, and the Gophers locked the game at the line despite not making a field goal over the final 8 minutes.
Coach Fran McCaffrey has guided the high-scoring Hawkeyes to their strongest season since 2005-06, which featured a 25-9 finish and their most recent NCAA tournament appearance. For a program that hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game in 13 years, though, this hasn’t been the smoothest winter. The Hawkeyes have lost three of their last four home games, albeit to the Big Ten’s best, and after senior Zach McCabe traded barbs on Twitter with some exceptionally critical fans on the social media service McCaffrey ordered his players to take a break from tweeting.
With the game at Indiana rescheduled for Thursday, the Hawkeyes were forced into a stretch of three contests in six days. The Gophers did their best to wear them down with a furious stretch to finish the first half playing the kind of fast-breaking, unhesitant-shooting style coach Richard Pitino tried to implement.
Lately, they have been bogged down in the half court, unable to get enough steals and defensive rebounds to fuel their transition game and overly reliant on Mathieu to guide the offense. They started out the same way, falling behind 32-21 well past the midpoint of the first half before Hollins finally found the rhythm he’s been missing for most of his senior season.
He swished a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 35-31 and then turned a steal into a fast break. He grabbed the rebound of Malik Smith’s miss and, almost directly underneath the basket with a defender in front him, deftly underhanded the ball in off the backboard to bring the Gophers within two points.
They outscored the Hawkeyes 30-9, allowing only two field goals, over a 7-minute stretch to take control. Buggs, the lanky redshirt freshman who brought five points in 21 career minutes into the game, played the part of the secret weapon and trusty sidekick. He astoundingly hit all three 3-pointers he took and had 11 points in the first half.
Hollins, in his previous four games, totaled just 24 points with 11 turnovers and 2-for-10 shooting from 3-point range. His previous high in a conference game this season was 18 points against Purdue on Jan. 5.