The Iowa Hawkeyes men’s basketball team went into Big Ten play with 3 disappointing losses to Dayton(now ranked 25th in the AP poll), Notre Dame, and in-state rivals Iowa State(ranked 13th), when they were victims of a signature cyclone second half comeback.
With a tough schedule ahead, doubts began to surround the experienced but inconsistent team. Senior Jarrod Uthoff was carrying the team, but when a game plan successfully shut him down like the Cyclones did, the rest of the team wasn’t stepping up.
The Hawks opened up Big Ten play against #1 Michigan State, who were missing key player Denzel Valentine, on December 29th. With the Spartan’s star player out with an injury, the Hawkeyes took advantage, leading to a 80-73 upset win.
Next was a battle at 14th ranked Purdue. The boilermakers couldn’t miss from beyond the arc early, and the Hawkeyes started the game ice cold. This led to a 17 point deficit at the half. The West Lafayette team’s huge lead was squandered by an Iowa team that became more aggressive on defense, and smarter offensively in the 2nd half.
Iowa coach Fran Mccaffery went to the three-quarter court press, leading to an eventual 10 turnovers by Purdue in the second half. They were obviously not ready for the aggressive defense, and collapsed under the pressure of constant traps and steals.
The Hawkeyes stormed to a 7 point lead, eventually winning 70-63. This was a big win against a team projected to be one of the best in the B1G, and was a testimony to the toughness and determination this team has.
After two battles against top teams, the Nebraska Cornhuskers went into Carver-Hawkeye arena for a sloppy game that Iowa won easily, 77-66. Point guard Mike Gesell racked up his first double-double of his career, but other than that it was a boring game that was never really close, despite overall poor play by the home team.
With the Hawks starting conference play 3-0, they now have their rematch with MSU in East Lansing on Thursday January 14th, at 6:00 pm. You can watch this showdown on ESPN.