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 are the N0. 4 and 3 best and worst moments of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season.
Coming Friday: The No. 2 Best/Worst moments of the season
No. 4 Best: Iowa all guts in dispatching Michigan in OT
Depleted beyond all recognition, Iowa brandished new golden uniforms and displayed more heart than a healthy opponent filled with twice the athletic ability and NCAA tournament aspirations. Iowa outfought, out-hustled and outplayed Michigan, 70-60, in overtime before a near sellout at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa shook off a 14-0 first-half run, rallied from a four-point deficit in the final minute and clamped on the Wolverines’ offense on the last possession of regulation.
In overtime, it was nothing short of relentless. Iowa scored on its first four possessions, including seven points from sophomore Jake Kelly. Iowa forced Michigan post DeShawn Sims to miss four overtime shots while the Hawkeyes sank all four attempts. All of this done with four players who played the full 45 minutes and only seven players overall.
“I’m proud of them, but I expected it,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. “Why would you not?”
Kelly, a sophomore, produced an award-winning effort punctuated with statistics. Kelly slid from off-guard to the point and had career highs in points, assists and rebounds. He scored 23 points on 8 of 17 shooting, pulled down eight rebounds and dished nine assists. He played every minute.
“I didn’t know I had those stats, but I just tried to go make plays. We needed it,” Kelly said. “My teammates had a lot of confidence in me and tried to get me the ball and set up some good screens. … I got some mismatches on some big guys. I felt like I could raise up and shoot or take it to the basket.”
No. 4 Worst: West Virginia welcomes Iowa to major college basketball
Iowa had beaten five minor-major college basketball opponents before heading to Las Vegas to face West Virginia. Let’s just say, West Virginia showed Iowa’s inexperienced athletes what major college basketball is all about.
West Virginia rolled through Iowa in every possible area, showing more athletic ability, experience, precision and defense. The Mountaineers scored on 11 straight first-half possessions, opened a 21-point lead and blew past Iowa, 87-68, in the Las Vegas Invitational at Orleans Arena.
Perhaps the most telling stat with 7:45 left in the first half: West Virginia had scored 21 points off Iowa turnovers. Iowa had one point for the same statistic. During the same span, Iowa had 11 turnovers, and West Virginia had three.
“When I looked at the score sheet at halftime and saw we shot like 60 percent from the field and we’re down 20 or whatever, my goodness,” said Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter. “It’s amazing. We haven’t experienced anything like that.”
Iowa led 11-9 with 13:35 left in the first half on an Anthony Tucker 3-pointer. That’s when West Virginia completely took over. The Mountaineers went on a 20-0 run to lead 29-11 just 4:29 later.
The statistics weren’t pretty for Iowa throughout the game, but they were especially ugly during the first half. From the time West Virginia extended a 15-11 lead to 34-13, Iowa committed five turnovers leading to 12 West Virginia points. Iowa went 1 of 3 from the field while West Virginia went 7 of 7.
No. 3 Best: Iowa shakes off West Virginia defeat to edge K-State at the buzzer
One day after West Virginia massacred Iowa, the Hawkeyes regrouped with a last-second, 65-63 win against Kansas State.
Iowa sophomore Jake Kelly had every reason to take the final shot, but deferred to senior teammate Cyrus Tate.
With the score tied, the team in a full-court transition and the clock at 3 seconds, Kelly pump-faked a 3-pointer to bring in Kansas State defender Darren Kent. Kelly instead tossed inside to Tate, who pumped twice on Kansas State’s Jamar Samuels and scored at the buzzer for the win.
“I knew there was very little time, and I was just getting ready to shoot it,” Kelly said. “But out of the bottom of my eye I just saw Cy and I hit him. I knew he was going to finish on it.
“I guess I just saw Cy so deep in the post that I knew it was going to be an easy bucket for him. He turned around, I think he even got fouled but he finished.”
Tate didn’t realize he had pump-faked twice before pushing the ball off the glass for the winner. He didn’t notice the time, either.
“I didn’t even see the clock, to be honest with you,” Tate said. “I saw the guy there and I was like, ‘Oh, (Samuels is) going to get a charge.’ I was thinking foul. I was thinking (the official is) going to call a charge but after that I was thinking finishing shot, and I wasn’t really paying attention to the clock.”
Iowa pushed the ball up the court and Kelly got it along the left side past the 3-point line before passing it inside to Tate.
“Jake could have grabbed it and shot it or (point guard) Jeff (Peterson) could have and made the extra pass and Cyrus finished,” Lickliter said. “That’s the way the game should be played.”
The final play ended the drama of eight lead changes and two ties in the last five minutes of the Las Vegas Invitational consolation game at the Orleans Arena.
No. 3 Iowa stumbles at Boston College
Three days after Iowa beat Kansas State in Las Vegas, the Hawkeyes traveled to Chestnut Hill, Mass., to play Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Iowa freshman Andrew Brommer missed the front end of a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line with .4 seconds left, and Iowa missed a chance to tie Boston College. He didn’t blame anyone but himself for the miss, which led to a 57-55 loss.
“I was just focusing on two free throws, a 1-and-1 and make the first one, make the second one and further advance the game,” Brommer said after the game. “It felt a little short.
“With free throws you’ve just got to believe that you’re going to make it and it doesn’t matter how long you wait. You just have to believe you’re always going to make it.”
Brommer promptly launched a line-drive free throw that bounced off the front of the rim. The game ended, and so did Iowa’s late comeback effort. It was Iowa’s only missed free throw.
“(Brommer is) upset I’m sure, but he’s got to know that’s not his fault,” Iowa sophomore guard Jake Kelly said. “It doesn’t come down to him making two free throws to save us all the mistakes we made down the stretch.”
Brommer played 13 minutes, including 10 in the second half, and registered a missed free throw, one foul and one rebound. But Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said he kept Brommer in the game for his other skills.
“Andrew … a tough spot, a shame,” Lickliter said. “That’s a tough deal for him. There are guys who struggle from the line. He happens to be one of them. If he were not defending the post or something else … he played well to get us back in it.”
Boston College led 56-45 with 4:45 remaining. Iowa had cut the lead to two points with 12.5 seconds left and one timeout remaining. Kelly took the ball up the court, tried to circle around forward Cyrus Tate at the top of the lane, but Boston College trapped the sophomore guard. With time dwindling, Kelly lunged the ball through Eagle defenders toward Brommer.
As Brommer grabbed the ball, Boston College’s Corey Raji tossed Brommer to the ground as the clock expired. Officials whistled Raji for the foul, gave Brommer a 1-and-1 at the free-throw line and put .4 seconds on the clock.