IOWA CITY – For the first time this season, Gophers men’s basketball coach Ben Johnson saw his team lead at halftime in Big Ten play Sunday in front of a frustrated crowd at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa basketball fans were already shocked after watching star Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes women on the jumbotron blow a late lead before losing on the road at Nebraska.
Dawson Garcia lit up the Hawkeyes for 18 points in the first half to carry his team to a 51-38 halftime lead, but the momentum shifted with his second-half injury.
With Garcia playing just four minutes in the second half, the Gophers blew a 20-point lead to watch their three-game win streak snapped Sunday in a 90-85 loss against rival Iowa.
On Super Bowl Sunday, the Gophers (15-8, 6-6) shot 55% in the first half, including 8-for-12 from three-point range. They had trailed 10 times in Big Ten games with one tie in a win earlier this month against Northwestern at home.
The Hawkeyes (14-10, 6-7) trailed 66-47 after Cam Christie’s baseline dunk, but they would take control of the game in the second half with a 34-11 run.
Payton Sandfort, who finished with 21 points, scored in transition to give Iowa its first lead since the first half with 4:35 to play. Sandfort’s three-pointer made it 81-77 to cap a 16-0 run for the Hawkeyes, who shot 59% in the second half from the field. They also were 23-for-28 from the foul line on the day.
Garcia helped the Gophers get off to a strong start with 14 of his team’s first 21 points in the game. Braeden Carrington (18 points) and Mike Mitchell Jr. (17 points) also combined for 22 points and six three-pointers in the first half.
The Gophers overcame foul trouble in the first half from starters Elijah Hawkins and Pharrel Payne. Iowa pulled within 26-24, but Mitchell’s third three-pointer capped a 25-10 run to make it 51-34 with 1:11 to play in the first half.
In the second half, the Hawkeyes continued to struggle to defend the arc with Mitchell drilling his fourth three-pointer for a 62-42 lead around the 16-minute mark. Christie, who finished with 15 points, also opened the second half with two threes.
Garcia had 30 points in the previous meeting against Iowa this season, but that was a disappointing home loss Jan. 15 with the Gophers falling 86-77 at Williams Arena.
In the second half Sunday, Garcia was limited after getting hit below the waist on a defensive play with 15:45 left. The U’s leading scorer never returned to the game, so it was up to his teammates to carry the load.
Off the bench, Parker Fox was forced to play extended minutes in the frontcourt and scored 10 points, but the Gophers were outscored in the paint 44-28.