The Hawkeye men played two games last week, losing at home to Michigan State in overtime, 71-69, and winning at Illinois, 81-74.
There was a lot of talk after the loss to the Spartans about the lack of toughness on the Hawkeye team.
One more free throw in regulation and Iowa has a huge victory over the Spartans.
Just one more…
The Hawks came into the game shooting 72.5 percent from the charity stripe.
They hit 30-43 (69.8 percent) for the game.
Devyn Marble missed two, Mike Gesell missed two (one with 47 seconds left in regulation), Adam Woodbury missed five, Zach McCabe missed one, Gabe Olaseni missed one and Jarrod Uthoff, who went into the game shooting 82 percent from the line, was 0-2.
A couple of those misses were the front end of one-and-ones.
Mike was knocked out of bounds on Iowa’s final attempt to tie the game in overtime, but no call.
On the flip side, Aaron White was 8-8 and Anthony Clemmons was 2-2.
When you play a really good team like Michigan State, you have to take advantage of every possession and every free throw.
The Spartans were playing without two of their top players, made only 11-20 free throws but hit 10 3-pointers while the Hawks nailed only three behind the arc.
Iowa’s bench got outscored 18-15... that really surprised me.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery talked about toughness after the game.
Michigan State had it, Iowa didn’t.
Toughness includes diving for loose balls, making big shots and playing defense for the full 35 seconds.
After thinking about the lack of toughness call for a couple of days, what if Devyn Marble’s five-foot floater with five seconds left in regulation goes in, or Melsahn Basabe’s tip-in?
Are we still talking about toughness, or the biggest win in 10 years?
National television, a packed and loud house, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen.
Iowa got that toughness back at Illinois Saturday with an 81-74 win.
When the Hawks jumped out to a 34-13 lead in the first half, I felt pretty good.
I also knew the home court of the Fighting Illini could get their team going if they got hot, and boy did they get hot.
“We had some stretches where we came apart a little bit,” said coach McCaffery. “That happens on the road. It seemed like they couldn’t make a shot. We’re running, running, running then all of a sudden they couldn’t miss. They are hitting threes, they’re tipping balls in, but we still had a four point lead at half.”
Illinois actually took the lead in the second half, but this time the Hawkeyes had an answer.
They hit their free throws (24-30), they hit the boards (41-28), the bench came through, outscoring the Illini bench 32-15 and Iowa had a 10-0 advantage in fast break points.
How about Gabe Olaseni going 9-10 from the free throw line? He came into the game shooting 68 percent from the line.
Gabe had career-highs in minutes (26), points (15) and rebounds (12). He also had two blocked shots.
It just amazes me how Devyn Marble can get shut-out in the first half and then lead the team with 17 points, including five in the last 1:39.
“His effort level was phenomenal,” said the coach. “I played him 36 and kept wanting to get him out, but he said ‘Coach I’m fine.’ He just has that uncanny ability to keep making plays and keep defending his man.”
I’ve said this before, with Iowa’s depth, two or three players can be having a bad night, but as long as either Devyn Marble, Mike Gesell, Melsahn Basabe or Aaron White is on, the Hawks should be okay.
Those are the leaders on the team, along with Zach McCabe.
1999 is the last time Iowa won in Champagne. The score was 78-72. The Hawks trailed at half, 38-34.
It was the last season for Tom Davis and the team was led by senior Jess Settles and a sophomore point guard named Dean Oliver.
Iowa improved its record to 17-5, 6-3 in the Big Ten and are sitting alone in third place.
It will be a hard road, but like coach McCaffery said after the game, “I couldn’t be prouder of our toughness.”
That pretty much says it all.