The Golden Gophers did manage to escape with a 62-59 win over Iowa on Sunday, and any win is a good win in a rugged conference, but I figured they would be much better than 5-4 at this point. They probably have no shot at the regular season championship but a run for the conference tournament title is a possibility.
For now, Minnesota needs to be happy that is above the .500 mark in conference play after Austin Hollins nailed a clutch 3-pointer in the closing seconds of a home game that turned out to be a little too close for comfort.
Hollins finished his day with 17 points and his effort helped keep Minnesota in a position to be an outside contender for the title. Yet, even if the Golden Gophers don’t win the title in the regular season or in the conference tournament, this is one of those wins that a team can learn from.
It’s one of those wins that tests the mental toughness of a team, and at least on Sunday, the Golden Gophers proved they have the heart and toughness to survive a grueling battle against an Iowa team that doesn’t know the definition of quit.
“Our guys showed a lot of heart, a lot of toughness and a lot of character,” Minnesota head coach Tubby Smith said in a post-game press conference.
Indeed. But the Golden Gophers will need to continue to have those characteristics on display if they hope to make a run in March.
Brian Lester is a college basketball writer for Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @BLester1993.