Iowa basketball’s Best/Worst moments: No.2

March 20, 2009

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's Jake Kelly, left, blocks a shot by Penn State's Talor Battle, right, during the second overtime March 7. Iowa won 75-67, in double overtime. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

Iowa's Jake Kelly, left, blocks a shot by Penn State's Talor Battle, right, during the second overtime March 7. Iowa won 75-67, in double overtime. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

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

Iowa's Anthony Tucker sits on the team's bench against Wisconsin Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa announced on Wednesday that Tucker will miss the second semester of the 2008-09 season due to being ruled academically ineligible. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Anthony Tucker sits on the team's bench against Wisconsin Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa announced on Wednesday that Tucker will miss the second semester of the 2008-09 season due to being ruled academically ineligible. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

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.


My final Big Ten ballot

March 8, 2009

In the past week I’ve changed my mind so many times about all-Big Ten selections it has prompted a call from the Big Ten Conference. There’s about 30 players worthy of consideration for all-Big Ten honors. There’s also about eight players with whom I’d have no problem earning first-team honors.

With that in mind, and after a few preliminary ballots, here’s how I voted for the all-Big Ten teams and honor awards that will be released by the Big Ten Network on Monday.

FIRST TEAM

Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; Evan Turner, Ohio State; Talor Battle, Penn State; Manny Harris, Michigan; Mike Davis, Illinois

SECOND TEAM

Robbie Hummel, Purdue; JaJuan Johnson, Purdue; Jake Kelly, Iowa; Jamelle Cornely, Penn State; DeShawn Sims, Michigan

THIRD TEAM

Kevin Coble, Northwestern; Craig Moore, Northwestern; Raymar Morgan, Michigan State; E’Twaun Moore, Purdue; Jason Bohannon, Wisconsin

COACH OF THE YEAR

1. Bruce Weber, Illinois; 2. Tom Izzo, Michigan State; 3. Ed DeChellis, Penn State

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

1. Matt Gatens, Iowa; 2. William Buford, Ohio State; 3. Delvon Roe, Michigan State

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

1. Talor Battle, Penn State; 2. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; 3. Evan Turner, Ohio State

Voting for the all Big Ten team was difficult to say the least. Before voting, I compiled a list of 30 players, then condensed it into groupings. I considered about 12 players for first team, and two of the best players — Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan — missed significant time with injury or illness. It wasn’t easy.

Wisconsin (no Marcus Landry or Joe Krabbenhoft, ouch), Illinois (no Chester Frazier, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale hurts) and Minnesota (Lawrence Westbrook and Al Nolen) were difficult because they had so many players of similar ability. Purdue (Chris Kramer) and Michigan State (Goran Suton) had players that were tough omits. Penn State (Stanley Pringle) was a toughie.

My picks are guard-heavy, and I switched multiple times between Battle, Lucas and Turner for the league’s player of the year. Ultimately, I went with Battle because I think he can do more and means more for his team than the others. That’s not a slight to Lucas or Turner, however.

Coach of the year was the easiest. Weber’s team wasn’t expected to compete for the Big Ten title after a sub-par 2007-08 season. Izzo sometimes suffers unfairly because everyone expects Michigan State to be good. The No. 3 coach selection was tough between Penn State’s Ed DeChellis and Northwestern’s Bill Carmody.

I had Buford slightly ahead of Gatens for top freshman honors until the teams met last Tuesday. Although their stats are similar, one intangible remains etched in my mind: Gatens doesn’t play with Evan Turner.

Kelly was a late jump, but if anyone thinks I’m home-towning him to second team, think again. He’s scored 19 or more points in the last six games, took over at the point without starting there all year and defends against his opponent’s best offensive player. That’s tough for anyone, particularly for a player with a broken finger and several other ailments. Plus, since he’s taken over the point, Iowa has played its best basketball all season.


My all-Big Ten ballot

March 3, 2009

Voting for the all Big Ten team was difficult to sasy the least. Before voting, I compiled a list of 30 players, then condensed it into groupings. I considered about 12 players for first team, and two of the best players — Purdue’s Robbie Hummel and Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan — missed significant time with injury or illness. It wasn’t easy.

Wisconsin (no Marcus Landry or Joe Krabbenhoft, ouch), Illinois (no Chester Frazier, Demetri McCamey and Mike Tisdale hurts) and Minnesota (Al Nolen) were difficult because they had so many players of similar ability. Purdue (Chris Kramer, E’Twaun Moore) and Michigan State (Goran Suton) had players that were tough omits. Penn State (Stanley Pringle) was even a toughie. The No. 3 coach selection was tough between Penn State’s Ed DeChellis and Northwestern’s Bill Carmody. Likewise, the league’s balance added to the chaos.

Anyway, here’s how I voted for the all-Big Ten basketball team; I waited until after Tuesday’s Ohio State-Iowa game to officially submit it. so fire away with your thoughts, but let’s at least be civil.

FIRST TEAM

Kalin Lucas, Michigan State

Evan Turner, Ohio State

Talor Battle, Penn State

Manny Harris, Michigan

Mike Davis, Illinois

SECOND TEAM

Robbie Hummel, Purdue

JaJuan Johnson, Purdue

Jamelle Cornley, Penn State

Raymar Morgan, Michigan State

DeShawn Sims, Michigan

THIRD TEAM

Kevin Coble, Northwestern

Craig Moore, Northwestern

Lawrence Westbrook, Minnesota

Jake Kelly, Iowa

Jason Bohannon, Wisconsin

COACH OF THE YEAR

1. Bruce Weber, Illinois; 2. Tom Izzo, Michigan State; 3. Ed DeChellis, Penn State

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR

1. Matt Gatens, Iowa; 2. William Buford, Ohio State; 3. Delvon Roe, Michigan State

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

1. Evan Turner, Ohio State; 2. Kalin Lucas, Michigan State; 3. Talor Battle, Penn State


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