MINNEAPOLIS — Matt Gatens had 19 points, six rebounds and three steals to lead Iowa's second-half surge past Minnesota for a 64-62 victory on Wednesday night.
Maverick Ahanmisi's runner from the edge of the lane in traffic bounced off the other side of the rim as the buzzer sounded, giving the Hawkeyes (10-6, 2-1) their first back-to-back Big Ten road wins in five seasons. Fueled by a head-turning victory at then-No. 11 Wisconsin last weekend, the Hawkeyes fought back from an 11-point deficit late in the first half.
They nearly blew it after an impressive rally, watching an seven-point lead inside the 60-second mark shrink to two after Ralph Sampson III picked up a loose ball off his own missed free throw and made a layup to cut the lead to two with 8 seconds left.
Roy Marble was fouled and missed both free throws, giving the Gophers (12-4, 0-3) one more chance.
Zach McCabe pitched in 12 points and Aaron White added 10 for the Hawkeyes, who ended a six-game losing streak to the Gophers, who have lost nine straight Big Ten games dating to their slide last year that pushed them out of postseason tournament consideration.
Julian Welch swished a 3-point shot a few seconds before the four-minute mark and another one from the corner with 32.9 seconds left, each time pulling the Gophers within four points, but they couldn't make enough shots when they needed to climb back in front. Minnesota finished 4 for 23 from 3-point range.
Welch had 14 points.
Iowa is coming off a fourth straight losing season, the longest such streak in program history. But the Hawkeyes — despite five nonconference losses by 10 points or more — put an early exclamation point on this season with their win at the Badgers' boisterous home court.
With a combined 3-22 on the road over the last two seasons, coach Fran McCaffrey's team badly needed this kind of confidence-building victory. Up next for Iowa is a home game against No. 6 Ohio State, then a trip to No. 10 Michigan State, followed by a visit from No. 16 Michigan.
Melsahn Basabe went scoreless for Iowa after putting up 14 points in each of the last four games, but the Hawkeyes had enough balance to improve to 7-0 when holding opponents this season to 68 points or fewer. The last time Iowa beat Minnesota was here at Williams Arena, nearly five years ago.
When the Gophers lost power forward Trevor Mbakwe to a season-ending knee injury over Thanksgiving weekend, they didn't just lose their emotional leader. They lost the Big Ten's best rebounder, and despite a spirited effort on the road last week, they lost in double overtime at Illinois and by five points at Michigan while being beaten on the boards in both games.
They were stronger around the basket this time, and their guards used their jumping ability to tip balls back to their teammates and keep key possessions alive. In the first half, at least, they used their superior athleticism and quick hands to turn steals into fast breaks — their greatest strength. They took a 32-21 advantage after Austin Hollins converted a layup off a transition opportunity, prompting a Hawkeyes timeout with 5:06 remaining before the break.
But Gatens, who had only six points against Wisconsin, closed the half with a pair of 3-pointers, and continued sloppiness by the home team helped Iowa ride a 23-6 run that bridged the intermission and built a lead that was never relinquished.
Williams netted a short jump shot to start the second-half scoring, the first points by the Gophers in a span of seven-plus minutes. But Gatens kept the Hawkeyes going with seven points in a span of just more than two minutes, and the Gophers started experiencing serious trouble with their half-court offense. The Hawkeyes tightened up their defense in the paint and around the perimeter, and on many possessions all the Gophers could do was settle for a 3-pointer on the wing after a helter-skelter series of frantic expressions and frustrated passes.