Watching the Iowa Hawkeyes since Valentines Day has been a lot like watching an episode of Teen Mom (or really any "reality" television show on MTV not named The Challenge). You know, there are some really nice things that happen while you follow along with these peoples lives, but you never really remember them at the end of an episode because of all of the emotional lows that leave you squinting and squirming at the train wreck that your watching.
Teen Mom and the Hawkeyes late in-game offense... it hurts. IT HURTS! MAKE IT STOP.
Going into Saturday's matchup against Michigan, the stakes for the Hawkeyes were extremely high. Not only did Fran McCaffery's squad need to end their four game skid (five of their last six ending in with an L), they also needed to rediscover the passion and consistency that had them at the top of the Big Ten just a few weeks earlier. A win would also mean nabbing at worst a five seed in the Big Ten Tournament and at best a double bye.
Were they able to come together and step back up to the plate? Or was this roller coaster ride doomed to stay on its downward course?
While there were some stretches that were extremely and highly questionable for the ol' Hawkeyes...
...they FINALLY ended this blood boiling skid, picked themselves out of the gutter they were kicked to and created some much needed momentum before entering the most important stretch of their season. Now as a collective unit, the Hawkeyes need to draw upon this because at the end of the day, if you can figure out a way to make it to the Final Four, nobody really remembers your loss at Penn State.
Two quick takeaways:
- Jarrod Uthoff had his best collective game since his 32 point explosion against Iowa State. The senior finished with 29 points on 11-19 shooting, seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks. He was absolutely assertive (when his teammates would get him the ball), his stroke was as pretty as Kelly Kapowski in a crop top and he gave Michigan's extremely rocky defense fits for most of the second half -- scoring 16 of his 29 total points. He was back. He is back. I guess he never really went away. But watching him bail Iowa out when his four teammates around him looked borderline petrified to fling the rock towards the hoop was promising. And at the end of the game, his performance helped me breath a little bit easier, something I hadn't done in weeks.
- Iowa finally closed out a game. After grabbing a 15-point lead with a little under ten minutes left in the contest, the Hawkeyes went cold. Ice cold. Walt Disney cryogenically frozen cold. Attributing zero points in six minutes cold. And of course, Michigan promptly went on a 10-0 run -- in part because of their 1-3-1 that took Iowa entirely too long to figure out -- and cut the lead to five. Because of the Hawkeyes recent history, the panic set back in. Iowa was being tested, yet again, late in the game and my worries came whirling back into my brain. Could Iowa learn from their past mistakes? Could they find a flow to their all of a sudden stagnant offense? Could they figure out a way to grab a much needed road win? Can they stop giving up offensive rebounds that lead to back breaking three pointers? To say that I was skeptical is an absolute understatement. Honestly, I thought they were indubitably doomed. After all, I have seen this movie all too often as of late. But, much to their credit, Iowa held on after clutch plays by Mike Gesell (who ripped the ball away from Duncan Robinson and scored on a break away layup), Anthony Clemmons (who nailed one of the largest three point shots I'm sure he's ever made in his career) and the captain himself, Jarrod "I'm just better than you" Uthoff:
That will do it. pic.twitter.com/eyEn3RueiB— Big Ten Geeks (@bigtengeeks) March 6, 2016
It was a much needed win. A good win. A win that should take some of the pressures out of the locker room.
Did Iowa rediscover themselves? Can they build off this win? Were they stepping back into the Big Ten limelight?
I don't know.
But what I do know is that it was fun catching another glimpse back at the team that captivated Big Ten Nation by starting the conference with a breezy 11-2 record; primed for a regular season title.
Obviously, nobody knows what's going to happen in the conference or NCAA tournaments. Would I be shocked if Iowa went on a run of a lifetime? No. Would I be shocked if they got gutted in their first BTT game? No.
But that's what makes college basketball psychotically fun. It's what keeps us craving more of those moments of sheer pleasure despite the multitude of pain.
Now with all of that said, here's to hoping March creates luxurious madness for everyone in and around Iowa City and that the Hawkeyes rediscovered how to release the fury.