Friday , Mar , 10 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Big Ten quarterfinal action pits Minnesota against Iowa

(Sports Network) – As the lowest seed to advance from the opening round of the
ninth annual Big Ten Conference Tournament on Thursday, the 10th-seeded
Minnesota Golden Gophers have the pleasure of facing off against second-seeded
and 20th-ranked Iowa in the quarterfinals this evening from Conseco
Fieldhouse. Against a favored Michigan program, the Gophers managed to slip by
with a narrow 59-55 win yesterday, moving the team’s all-time record in
the tournament to 4-6, although they are still waiting for their first-
ever title.

As for the Hawkeyes, they enter the postseason having won back-to-back
meetings with Penn State and Wisconsin at home to close out the regular
season. Iowa, which finished 11-5 in league play and 22-8 overall, lost
back-to-back games only twice this season and is searching for its first Big
Ten Tourney crown since 2001 when it defeated Indiana by a single basket,
63-61. Minnesota won the most recent meeting between the schools with a 74-61
decision back on February 18th. The Golden Gophers now hold a 94-85 edge in
the all-time series with the Hawkeyes. In the first meeting this season, Iowa
needed overtime to capture a 76-72 victory at home, where the squad ended up
a perfect 17-0 this year. The winner of this meeting will take on the winner
of the Michigan State/Illinois contest in the semifinals on Saturday

In the first half, the Michigan defense expended all its energy trying to deny
Vincent Grier the ball, which is one of the main reasons why Minnesota made a
total of just eight field goals in the first frame and trailed by four points
at the break. Eventually, Grier got loose for a few looks at the basket,
hitting 3-of-8 from the floor, before adding 5-of-10 at the charity stripe to
finish with 11 points. However, even though Grier finished in double digits,
the afternoon was far from smooth for him as he accounted for six of the
team’s 18 turnovers, while producing just a single assist in the decision.
Also scoring in double figures for the Gophers were Maurice Hargrow and Dan
Coleman with 15 and 10 points, respectively, with the latter coming off the
bench to grab seven rebounds as well. Zach Puchtel contributed little in the
way of scoring with just three points, but his 15 rebounds were more than
enough to keep the ball out of the hands of the Wolverines, who played sloppy
ball, committing a whopping 21 turnovers.

Iowa had one of the toughest scoring defenses in the Big Ten this season,
limiting opponents to only 59.1 ppg on conference-best 38.3 percent shooting
from the field. However, the Hawkeyes often needed that sort of action on the
defensive end of the floor because the squad was dead last in the league in
shooting from the floor, with a 42.9 percent conversion rate. When it came to
being a threat from three-point range, few teams feared Iowa because the unit
was 10th out of 11 teams in the Big Ten at 33 percent beyond the arc. One of
three players to average double-digit scoring for the unit this season, Greg
Brunner led the team with 14.2 ppg and was also the leader on the glass with
9.7 rpg, as the Hawkeyes beat teams on the boards by three and a half rebounds
per game. Adam Haluska and Jeff Horner were good for another 14.1 and 13.1
ppg, respectively, while Horner handed out a team-high 147 assists to make up
for his 36.9 percent shooting from the floor.