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 the upcoming week, I’ll rank the top and worst moments of the season — two every day. Here is the No. 6 and No. 5 best and worst moments of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season.
No. 6 Best: Iowa thumps eventual Missouri Valley champion UNI
Looking back, who would have guessed the team heading to the NCAA tournament was the loser?
Iowa rolled UNI 65-46 despite trailing by as many as seven points with less than 4 minutes left in the first half. But midway through the second half, Iowa went on a 12-0 run, beginning with 13:55 left that stretched a one-point lead to 42-29.
“I think we really played Iowa ball the Iowa way,” said sophomore guard Jake Kelly, who scored a game-high 19 points. “I think we took care of the ball, we got in the lane, we found open guys and we played well defensively. Just a great overall win.”
Kelly was all over the place. With his 19 points, he logged five rebounds, four assists, two steals and no turnovers. Guard Jeff Peterson scored 18 points, had five assists and four rebounds. Guard Matt Gatens scored 14 points.
No. 6 Worst: Lost in transition? Purdue rolls over Iowa in second-half run
Iowa trailed by just five points at Purdue with 17 minutes, 51 seconds left in the game.
Then, Purdue unleashed an offensive array of points over the next seven minutes while Iowa was lost in transition. The Boilermakers scored on six straight possessions and rolled past Iowa, 75-53.
“It was simply a matter of transition, and we couldn’t get matched up,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said, “and an issue of them knowing where to go in transition and who to go to. That’s good basketball IQ and good skill.”
Purdue led 31-26 before starting a game-altering 18-2 run. After extending its lead to seven on a pair of Robbie Hummel free throws, Purdue’s E’Twaun Moore scored on a layup to push the lead to nine. Then the Boilermakers effectively ended the game, drilling four 3-pointers on four consecutive possessions over 1:37.
No. 5 Best: Iowa earns bragging rights with blowout over Iowa State
Iowa scored on 15 of its first 18 second-half possessions and held Iowa State (6-3) to just five scores over the same span in a 73-57 victory.
“The more disciplined team won tonight, and the way I think about the game the more disciplined team deserves to win,” Iowa State Coach Greg McDermott said.
Discipline was just one portion of Iowa’s power display. The Hawkeyes overpowered Iowa State with swarming defense and offensive precision. Iowa pounded the glass for a 15-rebound edge over the Cyclones. Iowa more than doubled Iowa State with points off turnovers at 25-12. The Hawkeyes obliterated Iowa State in second-chance points (13-2) and fast-break points (11-2).
After a nip-and-tuck first half when Iowa led just 34-32 at halftime, the Hawkeyes came out with a 25-4 run to start the second half. The Hawkeyes forced Iowa State into wild shots and turnovers. There was no letup in the effort or precision.
“We talked at halftime that we wanted to come out with a lot of intensity, and that’s what we did,” Iowa guard Jeff Peterson said. “If we wanted to be as good as we know we can be, that’s (intensity is) the key. We’ve got to be consistent. If we’re up by 10, if we’re up by 20, 25 we still want to play the right way.”
Iowa’s consistency and effort began with senior co-captain Cyrus Tate, who was guarding Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, an all-Big 12 forward. Brackins entered the game averaging 17 points and seven rebound a game, and Tate averages around seven in each category.
Tate defended Brackins physically and with passion. Every time the 6-foot-10 sophomore touched the ball, Tate was on him, along with help. On Iowa State’s first possession, Tate was all over Brackins, who aired an off-balance shot that missed the rim. Two possessions later, Brackins missed a 3-pointer with Tate in his face.
“I kept him uncomfortable,” Tate said. “I kept him off the block where he felt most comfortable at, and pushed him out a little bit and gave him something to think about, and it ended up working. I got a little physical with him, and it seemed like he didn’t like physical play.”
Brackins finished the first half with six points and six rebounds. He ended with six points and seven rebounds.
No. 5 Worst: Iowa blows 13-point lead at Penn State
Iowa had every opportunity to earn its first Big Ten road win and let every opportunity slip away.
Penn State overcame a 13-point deficit in the last 5 minutes, 51 seconds, scoring on eight consecutive possessions to shock Iowa, 63-59, at Bryce Jordan Arena. The collapse had players questioning their intensity and toughness.
“We weren’t tough enough, and they were,” said Iowa sophomore point guard Jeff Peterson. “They executed. They were able to hit shots, and we just kind of folded at the end.”
“We thought we had the win, really,” Iowa sophomore guard Jake Kelly said. “I thought we played a little passive at the end. They put a press on and everybody was running away from the ball, myself included, and we didn’t maintain our aggressiveness throughout the game. We played kind of not to lose instead of going out there and getting it done.”
Despite a 16-point swing, Iowa still had a chance to send the game into overtime. Armed with a three-point lead, Penn State point guard Talor Battle missed the front end of a 1-and-1 free-throw attempt with 30 seconds left. Peterson drove to the basket, but the ball was knocked out of bounds with 16 seconds left. Iowa inbounded the ball and David Palmer attempted a wide-open 3-point shot, but the bail sailed well off its mark, and Battle rebounded.
Battle was fouled and again missed his first free throw attempt. Palmer, a 6-foot-9 post player, took the ball up the court, and Peterson’s 3-point attempt was blocked by Stanley Pringle.
The collapse ruined a stellar road effort by Iowa in the first 35 minutes. Iowa controlled the game with staunch defense and precision shooting. Iowa hit nearly 50 percent of its first-half shots. The Hawkeyes had built a 14-point lead with 11:54 left in the game by scoring on four consecutive possessions.