While I sat on my couch, looking into the dead white space of our platforms "New Article" page -- my heart still very much broken from this past weekends final nine minute open heart surgery performed by L.J. Scott and Connor Cook -- I played back this latest last minute Iowa basketball debacle in my head. How could THAT happen? I get it's college basketball and ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE and all that, but how? HOW? How do a bunch of seniors let that one get away in that fashion? With a timeout, too?
But I'll get to that later.
After I shook off the twenty-or-so-odd-minutes of shock, I hunkered down and did what I always do when something in my sporting life goes horribly wrong: I played "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly".
Admittedly, I didn't come up with this on my own. No, I ripped it from my favorite Chicago sports radio show and use it as a copping mechanism. The premise is quite simple, you take a sporting event or events, you go through the good parts, the bad parts and the ugly/dirty/filthy/disappointing parts and by discussing them out loud, you hopefully feel better.
In my adult sports life, I've found myself performing this activity a lot. Is it weird? Probably, but when you've been raised a Chicago sports fan your entire life and then choose to attend the University of Iowa, well you need something to deal with the hurt.
So instead of wallowing in the depths of despair, I compartmentalize. And when you look back at this basketball game -- only the tenth of the season -- there was some good, some bad and whole lotta UGHHHHH-ly:
The Good- Jarrod Uthoff
In front of fourteen NBA Scouts, Jarrod Uthoff put together one of the greatest halves of basketball of any Iowa player in the last 10 years when you consider environment and the overall game. You knew as soon as he launched the heat check-iest of all heat check shots from NBA-land -- and swished it -- that it was going to be a special night -- er half:
A buddy of mine asked me before the game if I thought Iowa had a shot at upsetting the No. 4 ranked Cyclones and I told him that after Monday's performance, I think Uthoff will come out gun's blazing in his final matchup with the 'Clones. That he was going to show the Full House:
That he was going to do everything in his power to grab his first win against Iowa State in a Hawkeyes uniform. That he's stewed over last years performance at Carver Hawkeye Arena (nine points on 21 minutes in a 90-75 loss). And if he got any help from his friends (Adam Woodbury, Mike Gesell, Anthony Clemmons or Peter Jok), that Iowa would make this an extremely competitive game.
Uthoff did all of that and more -- in the first half. He matched his season average in the first ten minutes of the game. He made every single one of his first eight shots (11-13 for the half). He made Billy Hoyle look like a chump while pushing Iowa to a 20 point lead.
He was the main reason Iowa was even in this game to begin with.
Unfortunately though for Iowa, college basketball has a second half and either he lost the juice, the Cyclones had a much stronger game plan to shut him down, or he was gambling on this game. He was 1-7 in the final twenty minutes, with his only made bucket coming with less than four minutes and a one point lead...
...Which brings me to:
The Bad- Iowa State's Second Half Run
The Cyclones put together (or Iowa allowed, depending on what goggles you had on) a 30-11 run. 30-11. They melted away a beautifully crafted 20-point lead like it was candle wax. Nothing worked defensively. Iowa went from a 50-50 man, to zone, to press.
If you're an Iowa fan, you've seen this horrible nightmare before. It's not just a once in a blue moon sickness anymore. Sicknesses you can get rid of. This is a disease. I don't know what McCaffery has to do to get this team to finish, to complete a game from start to finish, but it's getting extremely difficult watching Iowa let leads vanish while we all sit here waiting for a player -- any player -- to score a bucket.
Can someone put out an EPB around Iowa City for the next Dion Waiters/J.R. Smith, please?
The worst part is that this Iowa team can play with anyone. They really can. Just look at this game, or their matchup with Notre Dame (especially late), Wichita State or even Marquette. They'll continue to get better -- especially this extremely young bench -- as they have the feel of a team whose seniors will get hot around February and into March.
But the Hawkeyes, as they are currently constructed, will never be anything more than that "top five or six Big Ten team that gets a low seed in the NCAA Tournament" if they can't keep the peddle to the floor. If they can't pull the Drago and just break their wounded opponents after they come out and slug them right in the jaw.
The Ugly- The Final Two Minutes
As badly as I want to rip the No. 4 RANKED Iowa State fans for rushing the court, watching these kids celebrate on their home floor after beating a non-ranked Iowa team STILL wasn't as ugly as the Hawkeyes final two and a half minutes. Iowa held an 82-74 lead with four seniors and a junior on the floor (Gesell, Clemmons, Jok, Uthoff and Woodbury), yet McCaffery's upperclassmen went a combined 0-4 from the field with three turnovers in the most crucial point of the game.
The ugliest of which was a fiv... I can't.... I still can't:
HOW DOES THIS HAPPEN?
Quick call or not, McCaffery -- and Uthoff -- had a timeout left and to not burn it the second their internal clock went from "we have puh-len-teeeee of time" to "RED ALERT" is a giant misstep. I don't know who I'm more upset with still, McCaffery or Uthoff? Did they not know they had the timeout? They had to of right?
You have to use it there. You have to draw up your best out of bounds play. You have to force Iowa State to make the decision of sitting back while the seconds drip away knowing they need a three ball to tie or to foul and put one of your best free throw shooters on the line.
You can't just GIVE them the ball on a turnover. That should never be an option when you have a timeout just sitting there. You can't keep it with you for the next game, guys.
And because the Basketball God's have a funny sense of humor, Georges Niang gets fouled and promptly knocks down both of his free throws (82-81, Iowa). The Hawkeyes go down the court and run off some time -- and because we can't have nice things -- before eventually turning the ball over again on a SHOT CLOCK VIOLATION. That timeout we discussed earlier? Still chilling in McCaffery's pocket.
Iowa State gets the ball, marches down the court and then this:
Yup, no matter what anyone says, Iowa's effort in the final minutes of this game is still somehow uglier than a bunch of red and yellow favorites storming their own court.