No. 19 Gophers rally from 13-down to drop Iowa

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Minnesota entered its first Big Ten road game with a target on its back. For about half the game, it looked like the Gophers (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 22 AP) weren't up to the challenge.

Luckily for Minnesota, it played an Iowa team that hasn't learned how to finish off teams.

Lawrence Westbrook and Travis Busch each scored 10 points as Minnesota rallied from an early 13-point deficit, then hung on to beat Iowa 52-49 on Thursday night.

The Golden Gophers (14-1, 2-1 Big Ten) won their second straight since losing to Michigan State in their Big Ten opener. But they shot just 33.9 percent from the field and nearly let the game slip away in the closing seconds.

"It was really, really, really ugly. But whenever you win you can't get too mad," Westbrook said. "I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty."

Minnesota led 50-44 with 24.5 seconds left, but Iowa's Jake Kelly scored and Al Nolen of the Gophers missed two free throws. Jeff Peterson buried an open 3 from the corner with 5.3 seconds left to make it a one-point game, but Westbrook hit two free throws.

Kelly's last-gasp effort from just inside halfcourt bounced off the rim.

Minnesota, which trailed 23-10, held Iowa (11-5, 1-2) to 23 points in the second half. Peterson had 16 points but eight costly turnovers for Iowa, which played most of the game without forward Cyrus Tate.

Tate -- the only Hawkeye averaging over four rebounds a game entering play -- sprained his ankle midway through the first half.

Tate had 22 points and 11 rebounds in Iowa's last game, a 65-60 home win over Indiana. But the Hawkeyes nearly gave that one away, as the undermanned Hoosiers cut a 10-point deficit to two in the waning moments.

"There was a stretch in the second half where I thought we were very passive, and when we tried to be aggressive our decision making wasn't good," Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said.

Minnesota held Iowa to one field goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half, and Paul Carter's long jumper with 10:12 left gave the Gophers a 33-31 lead, their first since early in the game.

Minnesota took its biggest lead at 41-33 on Damian Johnson's layup with 5:17 left.

Matt Gatens snapped Iowa out of its funk, hitting consecutive 3s to help the Hawkeyes inch within 43-39, but Nolen responded with a 3.

Iowa then hit five straight free throws to pull within 46-44 with 1:17 left. But Busch cut through the lane, absorbed contact and banked it off the glass with 45 seconds to go, making it 48-44. Kelly then stuck a layup between the rim and the backboard, and the Gophers got the ball back with 25 seconds left on the possession arrow.

"I never felt like it was really pulling away, to be honest. We just kept chipping away. Even towards the end they had a chance," Busch said. "I think this is one of those games where you can't really relax or else you're going to lose."

Though the Gophers shot poorly from the field, they helped their cause by dominating the offensive glass. Minnesota had 18 offensive rebounds to Iowa's nine, and it put up 14 more shots than the Hawkeyes.

"It all came down to rebounding, and we just didn't rebound well enough to win in the Big Ten," Iowa's Jermain Davis said.

The Gophers missed 15 of their first 19 shots. Iowa took advantage with an 16-2 run, capped when Jarryd Cole threw down a dunk and hit a free throw to give the Hawkeyes a 23-10 lead with 4:57 left.

"They came out firing. This is a big game for them. We're a ranked team," Westbrook said.

Minnesota responded with a 10-3 spurt that cut Iowa's lead to 26-20 at halftime. Despite that late run, the Gophers 20 first-half points were by far its fewest of the season.

"It was a hard-fought win for us," Minnesota coach Tubby Smith said. "We had a tough time shooting the ball, but anytime you can get a win on the road in this league, it's a good win."