Minnesota got back to the basics and found its way back into the win column this week.
The 23rd-ranked Golden Gophers will look to keep that momentum going Sunday when they host an Iowa team also trying to post back-to-back wins to end the first half of the Big Ten season.
After averaging 14.0 turnovers and getting outrebounded three times during a four-game losing streak, Minnesota (16-5, 4-4) committed a season-low six turnovers and won the rebounding battle by 17 in Tuesday's 84-65 victory over Nebraska. The Cornhuskers' 19 rebounds were the fewest allowed by the Golden Gophers in two seasons.
"Tonight we did a better job, as far as taking care of the basketball. That was No. 1," said coach Tubby Smith, whose team also had a season-best 24 assists. "No. 2, we did a good job of rebounding the ball. Just basic fundamentals that you have to do to win any game."
Smith's team also shot 54.2 percent from the field after hitting 40.4 percent during the skid.
Another big game from Rodney Williams could help Minnesota improve upon its 11-1 home record - the only loss came to current No. 1 Michigan. The senior forward broke out with 23 points, 10.9 more than his season average, against the Cornhuskers after totaling nine on 3-of-17 shooting in losses at Northwestern and Wisconsin last week.
"There's definitely relief," said Williams, six points shy of moving into 30th place at Minnesota with 1,073. "When you lose four in a row and come home to play, you have to protect home court. For us to do it in impressive fashion like we did, I think it's a big confidence builder."
Iowa (14-7, 3-5) begins a two-game stretch away from home following Thursday's 76-67 victory over Penn State. The Hawkeyes had dropped two straight, both outside Iowa City.
"We needed it," sophomore Aaron White told the school's official website after scoring a career-best 27 points, "when you lose a tough game at Purdue (65-62 in overtime last Sunday) that we thought we should have had. It comes a point where we're at 10 games left, and we need to get a win streak going. This was a good one for us to start."
The Hawkeyes, who face Wisconsin on Wednesday, have done an outstanding job sharing the ball over the last two games with 33 assists on 39 field goals, but coach Fran McCaffrey's team needs to start knocking down some 3-pointers. The Hawkeyes are hitting 23.7 percent from long range in nine games since Dec. 20, the worst mark among major conference teams in that span.
Smith is concerned that Minnesota's last five opponents have hit 43.7 percent from beyond the arc.
Williams and Big Ten rebounding leader Trevor Mbakwe (8.6) could be tested down low by White and fellow forwards Melsahn Basabe and Zach McCabe.
Basabe is averaging 9.7 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds over the last three games after scoring 10 points with 10 boards Thursday in his first start of the season.
McCabe averaged 10.0 points and 8.5 rebounds against Minnesota last season as Iowa pulled off its first two-game sweep of this series since 2007.
The Hawkeyes ended a six-game losing streak versus the Gophers - and a three-game slide at Williams Arena - with a 64-62 victory Jan. 4, 2012. Iowa won the last meeting 63-59 last Feb. 1.
The Associated Press News Service
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