Iowa’s men’s basketball team finished 15-17 and 5-13 in the Big Ten. In a long season, there are always highlights and not-so memorable moments, particularly in a season that featured a little of both.
Over this week, I’ve rank the top and worst moments of the season — two every day. Today’s edition includes the N0. 2 best and worst moments of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season.
Coming Saturday: The best/worst moments of the season
No. 2 Best: Iowa beats Penn State in 2 OTs
Iowa had nothing to gain; Penn State, later spurned by the NCAA Tournament Committee, had everything on the line. That didn’t stop Iowa from earning the Big Ten’s biggest upset this season.
Nothing on the line? Tell that to Iowa sophomore Jake Kelly who woke up Saturday with a 101-degree body temperature and spilled his guts in a trash can 50 feet from the basketball court early in the second half.
Nothing on the line? Ask senior Cyrus Tate, who lugged a swollen right ankle up and down the court for 42 minutes.
Nothing on the line? Hard to tell at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa, the Big Ten’s 10th-best team, outfought, out-hustled and gutted out a 75-67 double-overtime win against Penn State in the teams’ Big Ten regular-season finale. If there was nothing on the line, Kelly wouldn’t have played. Tate wouldn’t have bawled his eyes out in the locker room. Matt Gatens and Devan Bawinkel wouldn’t have played 50 minutes.
“I think it was just the desire,” said Tate, who scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his final game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I think all of the guys gutted it out, just said ‘OK, we’re going to take this; this is our home.’ I think guys just really had that mindset, that focus.’”
Kelly notched his fourth 20-point effort this season, finishing with 22 points, 11 assists and four rebounds — three of which were offensive. He’s scored at least 19 points in the last six games.
No. 2 Tucker’s woes stop Iowa
No Iowa player shined brighter in the season’s first month than freshman Anthony Tucker. But in shocking fashion, all that promise was gone.
Tucker was ruled academically ineligible Jan. 21 and sat out the rest of the season. Tucker experienced a whirlwind first season with the Hawkeyes. He tied for the team’s highest scoring output of the season with 24 points against West Virginia. He hit seven 3-pointers at The Citadel. He averaged 17 points a game through his first six games. He was pure money from outside the arc.
Then it all fell apart. On Dec. 7, Tucker was found unconscious and intoxicated in a downtown Iowa City alley and was taken to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He was later charged with public intoxication and was suspended for 11 days.
The alcohol incident ran concurrent with mononucleosis, which fatigued Tucker on the court and in the classroom. His absence likely cost Iowa a game or two, and the Hawkeyes’ perimeter offense missed his outside shooting.
“It’s more frustrating for me knowing that I’ve felt like I’ve let my teammates and coaches down,” Tucker said. “The guys are doing their best. We don’t have a plethora of great shooters, but we do have a lot of guys that are great at a lot of other things and do their best to make plays. It’s just been frustrating knowing that I’ve let some people down.”
On the bright side, Tucker still practiced with the team and said his grades have improved. His health has improved, he’s gained strength and shoots 3-pointers in practice like they’re free throws. For Iowa’s program to succeed next year, Tucker is an integral piece in Coach Todd Lickliter’s puzzle.