MINNEAPOLIS — Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey wasn't all that upset after his team's second straight loss, a first for the Hawkeyes this season.
Minnesota simply had the shooting touch, and there wasn't much the 20th-ranked Hawkeyes could do about that. But when tournament time comes next month, they're going to have to defend better than they did against the Gophers.
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 Tuesday night.
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. Rebooting their NCAA tournament bid, they posted their season-high score while shooting 30 for 49 from the field (61.2 percent). The Gophers haven't had this many points in a non-overtime conference game since 1995, and this was their highest score in any game since 2010.
"They were on fire — I get that — and the crowd got into it and stuff, but you've got to adjust," McCaffrey said.
So did the Hawkeyes take that performance personally or just tip their metaphorical cap to the rival Gophers?
"I would say both, I think," senior star Roy Devyn Marble said. "They came out and shot the ball well, but at the same time our defense wasn't what it needed to be."
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.
"We can blame our defense if we want to, but at some point you have to respect your opponent and say, 'You know what? Richard had a good game plan. They executed it. They moved it. They got open, and they made the shots. More power to 'em,'" McCaffrey said.
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, in place of Melsahn Basabe, who was out because of an illness. The Hawkeyes fell into a fifth-place tie in the conference with Nebraska, which plays last-place Illinois on Wednesday.
"We just needed to dig down and get some stops like we needed to. They shot the ball tremendously well," point guard Mike Gesell said.
The Gophers grabbed a lead as big as 13 points under the 8½-minute mark, but the Hawkeyes 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 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.
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.
Hollins finally found the rhythm he's been missing for most of his senior season. He helped the Gophers outscore 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.