Best moment of Iowa’s men’s basketball season: Kelly’s emergence as a bona fide star
Initially, point guard Jeff Peterson’s hamstring injury appeared to be the lowpoint of the men’s basketball season. But off-guard Jake Kelly slid over to the point and Iowa’s offense soared.
“He appears to have handled that (the transition) well, I think,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. “I told him the other day I’m really proud of the way he’s adjusted. As a matter of fact, I think he looks comfortable there.”
Kelly was given more freedom within the offense and flourished. In Iowa’s final seven regular-season games, Kelly averaged 20 points a game. He produced back-to-back double-doubles in Iowa’s final two regular-season games.
Kelly was named Big Ten Player of the Week after scoring 23 points, dishing nine assists and grabbing eight rebounds, all while playing 45 minutes in an overtime win against Michigan. He followed that with a pair of 20-point performances in losses at Michigan State and Northwestern.
But Kelly really established himself against Penn State. Despite playing with a 101-degree temperature and a sinus infection, Kelly played 47 of 50 minutes in a double-OT upset win against Penn State. He scored 22 points, dished 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds in them game.
“When I woke up I had a 101 (fever), and I just thought, ‘No way,'” Kelly said. “I didn’t even go to pre-game meal or nothing. When I got here I decided to play. We don’t have that many bodies. It was like, ‘I’ll give it a shot.’ I didn’t think I was going to play that much.'”
Kelly produced the season’s most dynamic performance in that game. He earned his second Big Ten Player of the Week award two days later. He’s now a future star for Iowa basketball and the Big Ten.
Worst moment of the Iowa men’s basketball season: Blowout loss ends season
It was a thorough whipping in every sense. Michigan hit 59.2 percent of its shots from the field and outscored Iowa 24-2 off turnovers. To go along with its 29 baskets, Michigan had 22 assists. Iowa committed 17 turnovers.
Iowa allowed Michigan junior DeShawn Sims to look like a first-team All-American. Sims scored Michigan’s first 14 points, 27 overall and Iowa had no answer for him.
Iowa appeared lost in every area. Even Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter knew it.
“This is a team that has competed throughout the season at a good level,” Lickliter said. “Seldom have they been in a situation like this.
“We ran into a team that … we just couldn’t challenge them. It started off early. And just it was one of those things where we didn’t have an answer for them defensively.”
Iowa hit just 33 percent of its shots and 4 of 17 from beyond the 3-point line.
After a decent six-game stretch where Iowa won two overtime games and challenged four other opponents, this ending sent Iowa’s program back to square one. The Hawkeyes lost by 28 points — second-most under Lickliter — and showed the difference in athletic ability between Iowa and its opponents. It also showed Iowa is a long way from reaching the Big Ten’s upper echelon.