Fast Start, Gutty Finish, Poor Middle

It was a bit like old times on Friday afternoon in the 2nd round of the Big Ten Conference tournament for the Iowa Basketball program. Over the last 10 to 20 years, I always felt Iowa was one of the best teams at getting down by 20 points, then fighting back to within a basket or two, but usually losing more of those games than they won. In Iowa's 79-70 loss to Michigan, it felt like a ‘retro' afternoon.


Iowa got out to an early 10-point lead at 12-2 and then 14-4. Iowa scored 14 points in the games first four minutes (at the 16:45 mark, it was 14-4)

Unfortunately for Iowa, their next points came more than six minutes later, though they still held a 16-11 lead.

After scoring those quick 14 points, Iowa would not score another 14 points total until the 15:47 mark of the second half. So let's do the math…it took them 3:15 to score their first 14 points, and it took them 20:58 to score their next 15 points.

At the 15:47 mark of the second half, Iowa found themselves down 46-30.

They would trail 55-34 with 12:06 to go.

Iowa fans were always accustomed to late-game comebacks under Tom Davis, and Steve Alford's charges had a comeback of their own on Friday, cutting Michigan's lead to just four points with 2:34 to go at 67-63. Pierre Pierce hit the first of two free-throws to get it to that point, but he missed the second. Iowa was never able to get any closer than that, despite a valiant effort after putting themselves in too big of a hole with just six scholarship players in their rotation.

Pierce set a new career high with 28 points, making 10 of 18 shot attempts and seven of ten from the line. He added six rebounds and six assists before fouling out late in the contest.

Jeff Horner struggled on the day, making just 3 of 15 shot attempts, including just two of seven from three-point range. Fellow backcourt mate Brody Boyd also struggled a bit as he made just 5 of 12 shots.

Greg Brunner added yet another double-double, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Erek Hansen played extended minutes as Glen Worley was in foul trouble, and he scored six points and was credited with two blocks.

One of the biggest stories of the game for Iowa was its poor free throw shooting, as Iowa made just 11 of 21 from the charity striped and missed several front ends of one and one's. Michigan was 28 of 35 from the line.

Iowa was just 3 of 11 from the stripe in the first half while Michigan was 11 of 15. They led by seven at intermission, and Iowa committed 10 first half turnovers. The free-throw situation is underscored, as Michigan did not shoot 42-percent for the game.

It was a hard fought comeback by Iowa and Hawkeye fans can take a little consolation in the fact that the players did not quit.

But that has been a familiar mantra over the past two seasons, and the Hawkeyes will miss the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive season, something that has not happened since 1971-1978.

In five seasons under Steve Alford, the Hawkeyes have made the ‘Big Dance' just one time, and will be making their third NIT appearance. Iowa did not qualify for the post season in Alford's first year.

NIT bids will be announced on Sunday evening, an hour or more after the NCAA makes it's selections.

In state rival Iowa State lost to Oklahoma State today and they are headed for another NIT bid as well. Northern Iowa is the lone team from the state to qualify for the tournament, having done that on Monday night by winning the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament and the automatic bid that goes along with that.

Creighton will also make an NIT appearance, and it's likely that Alford's former squad, Southwestern Missouri State will as well. Former Iowa assistant Bruce Pearl's University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee club will be a likely NIT selection, as will Marquette. Wichita State will also get an NIT bid.

This is just a guess: look for Iowa to play Creighton or SMS/Wichita State in the opening round of the tournament with a possible Iowa-Iowa State rematch in round two.

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