MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nate Mason wasn’t going to go out a loser in his last game at Williams Arena.
Mason scored 33 points and dished out six assists as Minnesota snapped a nine-game losing streak with an 86-82 victory over Iowa on Wednesday night.
Dupree McBrayer scored 16 for Minnesota (15-15, 4-13 Big Ten), Jordan Murphy had 10 points and 10 rebounds and Davonte Fitzgerald also scored 10.
Mason, a senior guard, is nine points away from moving into fifth place on the Gophers’ all-time scoring list. But a season that began with talk of competing in the Big Ten has been derailed by injuries and a season-ending suspension of a starter, leaving the Gophers reeling through the second half of conference play.
“Emotions were really high, especially before with the senior introductions. We wanted to come out and do everything possible to get this win,” Mason said. “We went through a lot of rough times, and to end it like this is amazing.”
Mason hit 11 of 19 field goal attempts and three 3-pointers on the night. He also went 8 for 9 from the line, including five late free throws as Minnesota barely avoided blowing a 10-point lead in the final 52 seconds.
Isaiah Moss led Iowa with a career-high 32 points, including 19 in the final two minutes as the Hawkeyes (12-18, 3-14) fought their way back from an early 20-point deficit. Luka Garza added 16 points and Ryan Kriener scored a career-high 15 as the Hawkeyes lost their sixth straight.
Minnesota stormed to a 22-2 lead thanks in large part to an ice-cold start by Iowa. In the Hawkeyes’ first 16 possessions they went 1-for-8 shooting from the floor with no offensive rebounds and eight turnovers.
Meanwhile Mason scored 12 points, the last coming on a three-point play to put the Gophers up by 20 barely eight minutes in.
Then it was Minnesota’s turn for a scoring drought. The Gophers went 7½ minutes without a point as Iowa cobbled together an 11-0 run, thanks to seven points by Garza.
“Once we settled down, I thought we’d get back in this thing and we did,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey said. “I’m proud of the way we fought.”
The Gophers finally responded as Murphy hit a baby hook as the shot clock expired to restore Minnesota’s lead to double digits. The junior forward ended the half by slamming home an alley-oop pass from Mason to give Minnesota a 31-19 halftime lead.
Kriener, who scored all of his points in the second half, helped Iowa keep the game within reach. At one point he scored 10 of 11 Hawkeye points, part of a 63-point second half effort for the team.
“The second half we really just came out with a whole different mindset,” Kriener said. “We dug ourselves a pretty big hole. We knew that if we wanted a chance in this game we were going to have to come out firing and come out throwing the first punch, and the next punch and the next punch.”
Iowa clawed back to as close as two points in the second half as Moss went on a late tear. His third 3-pointer made the score 84-82 with three seconds left before Fitzgerald hit two free throws to ice it for Minnesota.
Both teams are assured of a bottom-four finish in the conference standings and could face each other again in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Wednesday in New York.
How does one player score 19 points in 96 seconds? Moss strung together this remarkable sequence starting with 1:36 to play: 3-point play, jump shot, 3-pointer, 3-pointer, jump shot, 1 of 2 free throws, 2 of 2 from the line and another 3-pointer.
Moss came into the night averaging 10.6 points per game and blew past his previous career-high 25 with room to spare. McCaffrey said he wasn’t surprised at the output of his sophomore swingman.
“He has the ability to do that. It’s funny because when you have a guy who’s a legitimate 6-foot-5 and he can get to the rim, he’s got a pull-up game, he’s got a 3-point game, and he’s quick, all I ever do is encourage him to go,” McCaffrey said. “I don’t ever have him questioning whether it’s a good shot or a bad shot. Just, ‘you go get buckets. That’s what you do.'”
Minnesota head coach Richard Pitino joked that he felt bad about needing Mason to play all 40 minutes, robbing him of a chance to walk off to a standing ovation in his final home game.
“I would’ve subbed him out, but jeez, the way they were scoring I wasn’t going to risk that,” Pitino said.
Iowa: Sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon, the Hawkeyes’ second-leading scorer on the season at 13.2 points per game, was held scoreless for the first time all season. He attempted just two field goals but distributed six assists.
Minnesota: On senior night at Williams Arena, Mason got the Gophers offense going with a 3-pointer to open each half. Meanwhile senior center Bakary Konate grabbed nine rebounds in the first half and finished with two points and 10 boards.
Iowa: Hosts Northwestern Sunday night.
Minnesota: Visits Purdue Sunday afternoon.