With the 2019-’20 college basketball season wrapping up, it’s a great time to look back on the decade for the Big Ten. While the league didn’t win a national championship during the 2010s, it did send a variety of teams to the Final Four and had plenty of quality play.
So, in that mindset, BTP is looking at the most memorable games for each Big Ten team during the 2010s. These aren’t necessarily the most significant or the most fiercely contested games. Rather, they’re the most memorable. So, just because a game came in the postseason doesn’t guarantee it a spot on this list.
But before we jump in, a few other notes on our criteria. To qualify for this list, a game needed to happen sometime between January 1, 2010 and December 31, 2019. I realize that cuts between two seasons, but that’s the criteria we’re using. A team also didn’t have to win a game for it to make this list. For instance, Michigan’s loss to Louisville in the 2013 title game was certainly memorable, even though the Wolverines didn’t come out on top.
With that, let’s look at the 10 most memorable games for the Hawkeyes over the last decade.
The Most Memorable Iowa Games During the 2010s:
- #6 Purdue @ Iowa (March 5, 2011) — Purdue 65, Iowa 67
The first couple years of the decade were a rough go for the Hawkeyes, going a combined 8-28 in conference. This game against No. 6 Purdue was the final regular season game for the Hawkeyes in Fran McCaffrey’s first season in Iowa City. This win marked the first victory over a ranked opponent for the Hawkeyes since 2008 and kickstarted this run of sustained success under McCaffrey.
- Iowa vs. Tennessee (March 24, 2019) — Iowa 77, Tennessee 83 (OT)
I want to know how many Iowa fans gave up all hope before the first half of this game ended. Tennessee’s biggest lead reached 25 points with just over four minutes left before the intermission. The Hawkeyes outscored the Vols by 21 in the second half and were able to tie it up on two free throws by Joe Weiskamp with 20 seconds left. In the end, Tennessee pulled out the victory in this second round matchup, but not without one of the greatest comebacks in NCAA Tournament history.
- Northwestern @ #20 Iowa (February 10, 2019) - Northwestern 79, Iowa 80
This is another one of the best comebacks in Iowa history, albeit not in the NCAA Tourney. The Wildcats held a steady lead throughout the game, including an 8-point lead with 90 seconds left. A combination of terrible offense and even worse defense by Northwestern allowed the Hawkeyes to erase the deficit to only two points with three seconds left. The sideline inbounds play got Jordan Bohannon the ball, he took one dribble, and hit a fadeaway three to win it at the buzzer. Watching this game as a Northwestern fan was one of the more helpless feelings I’ve ever experienced watching sports - and that’s coming from a Northwestern fan.
- Iowa vs. Maryland (April 2, 2013) — Iowa 71, Maryland 60
This is one of the more talented Hawkeye teams of the past decade, led by Melsahn Basabe and Roy Devyn Marble. They were a couple wins shy of making the tournament, so they came into the NIT as a three-seed. The Hawkeyes were able to make it the semifinals where they took on a pre-Big Ten Maryland team in Madison Square Garden. Iowa led basically the whole game, ultimately winning by 11. This sent them to the school’s first ever NIT Championship appearance where they lost to a Baylor squad that featured Brady Heslip and Isaiah Austin.
- #23 Iowa vs. Villanova (November 30, 2013) — Iowa 83, Villanova 88 (OT)
This matchup was to win the Battle 4 Atlantis Championship and the Hawkeyes entered as a top 25 team led by Basabe and Marble, once again. Villanova entered unranked but was led by the nucleus that won the national championship just two years later - Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, and Ryan Arcidiacono. ‘Nova came out on top in this really close overtime game, propelling them to a top-15 ranking the following week. The Wildcats finished the regular season 28-3. Iowa’s ability to hang with Villanova was impressive and probably played a role in earning themselves an NCAA bid in March.
- Iowa vs. Tennessee (March 19, 2014) — Iowa 65, Tennessee 78 (OT)
This matchup was part of the First Four held in Dayton to determine who would get the eleven-seed in the Midwest Region. Iowa held a slight lead seemingly all game until Tennessee was able to get over the hump late in the second half, sending it to overtime. The Hawkeyes were outscored 14-1 in OT, resulting in the Vols victory. Regardless, this is one of those amazing, dramatic Tournament games that a neutral fan can remember.
- #16 Iowa @ #4 Michigan St. (January 14, 2016) — Iowa 76, Michigan St. 59
Anytime you blow out a ranked Michigan St. in the Breslin Center it’s memorable. The Hawkeyes entered this game as probably the hottest team in the country. They had just beaten the top-ranked Spartans two weeks prior and then traveled to West Lafayette and beat the 14th-ranked Boilermakers. This set up Iowa with a prove-it game on the road in East Lansing. The Hawkeyes came out firing and never looked back, beating the Denzel Valentine-led Spartans by 17. Within a couple weeks, Iowa was considered a top-5 team in the nation before falling off a bit towards the end of the regular season.
- Iowa @ #22 Wisconsin (March 2, 2017) — Iowa 59, Wisconsin 57
Iowa disappointed in the non-conference slate, losing five games, which meant that they had to claw their way back within conference if they wanted to make the Tournament. The Hawkeyes had won on the road against a ranked Maryland team just a few days before taking on another ranked opponent - Wisconsin. Jordan Bohannon hit a three to take the lead with 10 seconds left and Bronson Koenig left his jumper short, allowing the Hawkeyes to escape with another resume-building victory. At this point, it was likely that they would’ve made the Tournament had they not lost by 22 to Indiana in the first round of the Big Ten Tourney the next week.
- Iowa @ #5 Iowa St. (December 10, 2015) — Iowa 82, Iowa St. 83
Any time these two teams match up, it has the chance to be a really competitive game. Both teams would reach a top 5 ranking at some point during this season. Jarrod Uthoff scored 30 points in the first half, leading the Hawkeyes to a 20-point lead at one point. The Cyclones stormed back though, taking the lead on a Monte Morris runner. Uthoff missed a three on the other end that would have won it. Fans rushed the court in Ames after their victory, a painful sight for Hawkeyes fans.
- Iowa @ #4 Michigan (December 6, 2019) — Iowa 91, Michigan 103
This was the Luka Garza coming-out party despite it coming in a losing effort. Garza was absolutely dominant and scored 44 points. The Hawkeyes put up 91 points as a team and the only player besides Garza to be in double figures was Connor McCaffery with 12. Garza’s 44 points is the third most in a single game in school history and the most in a game since John Johnson had 49 in a game in 1970. This encapsulated the Hawkeyes’ season with Garza leading the way, but admittedly struggling to play very good defense.