November 10, 2015

Iowa's most recent home defeat came one year ago this week to Minnesota.

Though these Golden Gophers are not of the same caliber and mired in their longest skid in almost three decades, coach Fran McCaffery wants to make sure his fourth-ranked Hawkeyes don't take anything for granted in Sunday night's home matchup.

McCaffery seemed less concerned about Iowa's overall solid effort in Thursday's 85-78 loss at Indiana than he is with its readiness to hand Minnesota (6-18, 0-12 Big Ten) a 14th consecutive defeat.

Though McCaffery expects to utilize his bench more after it was outscored 28-0 by the Hoosiers and needs a better performance than the 13-of-23 showing from the free-throw line, his biggest need - at least publicly - from Iowa (19-5, 10-2) this weekend is focus. It's something that hasn't been a problem for the Hawkeyes, but can creep into the collective mind of any heavy favorite while facing an opponent that's closing in a school-record 16-game losing streak set in 1986-87.

"I don't look at their record," said McCaffery, whose Hawkeyes have won 15 straight at home by an average of 18.4 points since losing 64-59 to the Gophers on Feb. 12 of last year.

"They have our attention, no question," McCaffery added.

The Hawkeyes have dropped two of three against Minnesota and needed a Jarrod Uthoff bucket with 6.1 seconds left to win 77-75 at Minneapolis in last season's first meeting.

"It shouldn't be too hard to get (our guys) to understand who we're playing," McCaffery said.

He also mentioned that even minus its top two scorers from last season's 18-win team and with only two seniors seeing regular time, Minnesota's been competitive while dropping seven of its league games by eight points or less. McCaffery singled out a 74-68 loss at then No. 19 Indiana on Jan. 20, when the Gophers overcame a 16-point second-half deficit to take the lead with less than 5 minutes.

"(Coach Richard Pitino) has good young players, and he's trying to push the right buttons," McCaffery said. "If you look at their record, it isn't reflective. ... They have had many games where they have been right there."

Minnesota shot 46.6 percent in Wednesday's 82-74 loss to Michigan, which shot 53.8 percent. It came one game after Northwestern made 53.7 percent of its attempts in an 82-58 rout of the Gophers.

''At some point here, come on,'' said Pitino, who is trying to prevent Minnesota's first winless Big Ten season. ''Let's get some wins.''

Pitino would also like to see a squad that's 11 for 65 from 3-point range in the last four games, take the ball to the basket more. That would make sense against Iowa, which is among the national leaders in defensive 3-point field-goal percentage (29.7).

''It's hard to tell a guy, `Hey, you're not a great 3-point shooter,''' Pitino said. ''That's got to be our identity, driving the ball."

Minnesota sophomore Nate Mason has averaged 17.8 points and 6.0 assists in six games. He scored 29 in the two meetings with Iowa in 2014-15.

Uthoff (18.6 points per game) totaled 39 points in those matchups last season, and had 24 despite going 8 of 20 from the field at Indiana.

Teammate Peter Jok (15.3 ppg) should be available after overcoming an apparent leg injury to play 30 minutes Thursday. He scored 16 in last season's home loss to the Gophers.

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