Gophers blow out Iowa
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- With a 28-point drubbing at Michigan still fresh in their minds, Lawrence Westbrook and Damian Johnson were determined to make Senior Day at Williams Arena a memorable one.
Westbrook scored 20 points and Johnson had 10 points and a career-high 11 assists in the final regular-season game at Williams Arena to lead Minnesota to an 88-53 win over Iowa on Sunday.
"I just thought the guys wanted to go out and finish the season the right way," Johnson said.
Devoe Joseph added 17 points and Minnesota was 12-for-19 from 3-point range.
Aaron Fuller scored 16 points for Iowa, which suffered its biggest loss of the season and lost nine of its last 11 to close out the Big Ten season.
The Gophers (18-12, 9-9) are the sixth seed and will face 11th-seeded Penn State in the first round of the Big Ten tournament on Thursday in Indianapolis.
The Hawkeyes (10-21, 4-14) are seeded ninth and will face eighth-seeded Michigan in the first round. Iowa lost the final two games of the regular season by a combined 62 points, including a 27-point loss at Wisconsin.
"No question these are tough environments for our young guys," Iowa guard Matt Gatens said. "Two senior nights and players playing with a lot of emotion. But you have to respond and come out ready."
Johnson added three blocks and three steals after he, Westbrook and Devron Bostick were honored in a pregame ceremony.
The Gophers jumped all over undermanned and overmatched Iowa from the outset, shooting 59 percent in the first half and hitting six of their nine attempts from 3-point range. They took control with a 17-0 run at the halfway point of the first period.
Minnesota came away with 15 points on five possessions in the burst and held the Hawkeyes without a point for 7:40 to take a 35-10 lead.
"If we play like that, we have as good a chance as anybody (in the Big Ten tournament)," Westbrook said.
Minnesota kept pouring it on in the second half and shot 58.5 percent for the game.
"This is the way you respond," Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said, referring to the Gophers' 83-55 loss at Michigan last week.
"You've got to hand it to them. That is exactly what you want to do."
The pace bogged down in the second half, and the Gophers pushed the margin as high as 37 points before the game ended. Iowa simply didn't have the talent to compete against the up-and-down Gophers, and that's nothing new for them.
It's been that way all season long for Lickliter and his Hawkeyes, who have lost 20 games in a season for the first time in school history. Iowa starts two freshmen, two sophomores and a junior, and it has looked every bit its age during a long rebuilding season.
"If you were in my shoes, you'd want to go to practice," Lickliter said. "You'd want to be around them. I admire them. They'll get their turn."
It's been a long year for the Gophers as well, though for entirely different reasons. They started the season with plenty of promise thanks to plenty of returning players and a banner recruiting class. But Tubby Smith has had to answer questions all year long about off-the-court issues with his players.
Forwards Royce White and Trevor Mbakwe never suited up this season because of legal entanglements and trusted point guard Al Nolen was suspended for the second half of the season due to academics.
A victory over No. 12 Butler highlighted a soft nonconference schedule. After an inconsistent Big Ten season that included victories over Ohio State and Wisconsin but also a loss at Indiana and the blowout in Michigan, the Gophers may have to win the conference tournament to get an NCAA bid.
"It's a long ways (away)," Smith said of an NCAA bid. "We've got to do a lot of work. We have to play like we did today."