*Note to the reader: What you are going to read here is what happens when a sports writer -- who is also an Iowa alum -- is trapped in a glass case of emotion with an open computer in front of him. Everything below represents my honest to goodness thoughts on last nights Indiana victory -- or rather Iowa loss -- which even at two in the morning remained a horrifyingly gut wrenching game. A game that looked so unbelievably over with 16 minutes left that I actually thought about turning on Fixer Upper and falling to sleep to Chip Gaines' goofy musings and skipping this entire process completely. But then Iowa went on a run and then went on a drought only to then somehow give themselves two CLEAN looks from three to tie the game in the final six seconds. I do not apologize for any of the thoughts below, as they were (and still are) all warranted during this continued confusing/fun/exciting/frustrating stretch of Iowa basketball.*
Out hustled. Out hustled. Out hustled.
It's the only sure fire way you can describe the first 24-minutes of that game by the Hawkeyes. Just going off of my personal experience and the responses on Twitter, it was a notion that every single Iowa fan sided with during the entirety of the first half. And I'm guessing red-faced Fran McCaffery called the entire team out on it during a TV timeout early in the second half.
Out hustled and soulless.
I've harped on Iowa's issues on this site and in the Twitter-verse the last few weeks and I fully realize that it's getting to the point of beating a dead horse. But when the Hawkeyes come out in a must win game -- assuming their goals were to still win an outright title -- and look as though they had no clue of what any of their biggest flaws were before welcoming the Hoosier's into town is down right frustrating.
For nearly 25 minutes of that contest, Iowa refused to contest bunnies. They refused to put a hand up on Indiana on the three point line -- which is NOT a "Major Key for Succes". They allowed Indiana to feast on the offensive glass, giving up second chance points like they were free "In Fran We Trust" t-shirts that were just cleaned out of a U-Haul locker after collecting dust for five years. They didn't feel it necessary to box out. They didn't feel it was necessary to protect the weak side glass.
They didn't think it was necessary to do MORE. To be BETTER. To take the extra step. To deny Indiana the ability to stretch them thin.
If you would've asked me before tonights game that I would use the word "soulless" in a recap of Iowa's Senior Night, I would've told you to go smell a fart. But here we are. Iowa's four seniors, after coming out somewhat hot, reverted back to doing the same things over and over and over and over while anticipating a different result than the one's they've seen in the last five games.
Their is a word for that: Insanity.
How does this veteran team allow an Indiana team -- who puts so much consistent pressure on you with their innate ability to hit any and EVERY shot -- to play that loose? To be that lethal (IU scored 47 points in the first half on 8-11 shooting from three)? How do you let a streaky team like that, who aren't as high and mighty outside of their friendly confines at home, go all Steph Curry against the Thunder against you?
It's breathtakingly infuriating.
For the last six games, Iowa has looked as though they have gone through the motions and they did as much for a majority of last night's game. Like the spark that made them one of the most exciting teams in the country, all up and vanished. Disappeared. It's like they ran out of Michael's Secret Stuff and were left with warm milk in its stead.
Until Nicholas Baer and Ahmad Wagner found a little sip of it in an old water bottle taped under a chair.
Down 14-points with twelve minutes left in the game, Iowa found -- or recreated -- the spark. They taped up their hands, strapped on some gloves and punched their way out of the dreaded corner they have been getting pummeled in. For a four minute stretch, they ended the six game rope-a-dope. The seniors amped it up and played within themselves both on the offensive and defensive ends, and the bench -- at ease when they are asked to perform their roles, not out perform the seniors -- looked composed and were able to provide a much needed energy (here's to you Baer and Wagner, for without you, this game is a bigger train wreck than Kanye West on one of his Twitter-rants).
Suddenly, with six minutes left in regulation, Iowa, who looked as though they had already been left for dead, were tied with the Hoosiers. And Carver Hawkeye Arena erupted with so much static noise that they put your favorite Hawkeyes cheerleader to shame:
Everything was awesome once again. Iowa basketball was fun again for that briefest of stretches. Baer was knocking down three pointers. Wagner was the All-Hustle and Bustle player I fell in love with during the non-conference slate. Uthoff reintroduced the Big Ten to his block party. Mike Gesell was dropping dimes.
And then it stopped just as fast as it began.
The world altering meteor crashed into Iowa City and Bruce Willis wasn't around to keep our hopes and dreams alive.
I'm sure most of you that read this site tuned in for the end of this game, but for the unacclimated, once again, Iowa's offense took a giant, ill-timed nose dive.
Again, stop me if you've heard this at all before, but the Hawkeyes looked as fluid as a 3rd grade CYO team from that point to the end of the game. They had no spacing. They were frantic. They forced jumpers instead of doing what got them back into that game (i.e. attacking the rim and putting Indiana on their heels and taking complete advantage of the #BigTenRefs hatred of Tom Crean) and lost their grip on a game that should've never been their's to take in the first place.
Questioning McCaffery's in-game coaching is moot at this point. He is who he is. We all know that by now and he's made it very, very clear that he's always going to let his guys figure it out rather than meddle. You can hate him or love him for it as much as you want.
I can't seem to shake the fact that once again, Iowa was up one point with 3:59 left in a must win game and they weren't able to come up with a single point until the :12 mark. Not. One.
I understand after a couple of bad possessions letting it ride out one more with a team like this. I understand the idea of letting your seniors feel as if they are in total control when they are on the court. But when Anthony Clemmons misses two free throws in a row and on Indiana's next possession they grab yet another offensive rebound that gives Yogi Ferrell the opportunity to give the Hawkeyes a Jon Snow like dagger to the gut, don't you think it would be wise to call a timeout to draw up your best play in hopes of getting a GOOD look instead of HOPING your seniors figure it out after three minutes of pure garbage?
Isn't that what coaches do?
But hey, maybe me even asking that question again is just as insane?