The Iowa Men's Basketball team has emerged from the figurative black cloud that had been hovering over Carver Hawkeye Arena for the past several seasons of the Steve Alford era. Unfortunately, they were buried under a snow drift on Wednesday.
The Hawkeyes came into the Big Ten season opener against Michigan on a nine game win streak and ranked #14 in the nation by the Associated Press. A home game against a short handed Michigan team who had limped to an 8-5 out of conference record was surely the recipie for Iowa to win it's ninth straight Big Ten opener, right?
Not so fast.
Iowa, playing in front of perhaps 5,000 fans in Carver Hawkeye due to the massive snowstorm in Eastern Iowa (10,289 was the paid attendance), came out of the gates cold, trailing Michigan by as many as 16 points in the first half before heading to the locker room down 14 at the break.
Michigan entered the game as the worst three point shooting team in the Big Ten. But has been a hallmark of Iowa basketball for the past…well, since the three-point line came to be, teams who are struggling shooting the ball seem to get a lot better in the friendly confines of CHA.
The Wolverines made 7 of 11 from downtown, while the Hawkeyes were as cold as the air outside the arena, missing all eight of their three-points attempts in the first half.
Iowa's poor shooting was not as disappointing as was there seemingly lackluster effort. There was no fire, no intensity and Michigan seemingly got every loose ball.
The second half saw Iowa turn the tables on Michigan, as the Hawkeyes would start with a 17-4 run to pull to within one point with 11:42 to go.
Michigan would push the lead back to seven points, but the Hawkeyes would fight their way back.
Jeff Horner, who is in his worst shooting slump in more than a year, hit three, three-point shots in the final five minutes to keep the Hawkeyes in the game. His second trey tied the game at 59-59, with 1:31 to go. Michigan would score the next four before Horner hit the third trey, pulling the Hawkeyes to within one with :32 to go in the game.
Michigan then committed its 25th turnover of the night when they were unable to inbound the ball within the allotted five seconds. Iowa inbounded the ball to Greg Brunner at the top of the key, and Brunner tried bulldozing his way to the basket as if there were just a few ticks of the clock remaining. He put up a wild shot that did not find its mark, and Iowa had to foul with :23 seconds to go.
Michigan made both of its free throws, so the Hawkeyes were down three. Iowa tried to work a screen for another Horner three, but they wound up with Brunner taking an off-balanced three point try that missed. Michigan's Daniel Horton missed both of his free throws with :08 remaining, and Pierre Pierce was fouled on a three-point attempt.
Pierce, a 47 percent free throw shooter, missed his first attempt and made his second attempt. There was :01.8 second to play, and Pierce needed to intentionally miss his third free throw and hope that Iowa could grab the board.
Pierce nearly threw the ball at the backboard with two hands, and the ball never came close to finding the rim, something it has to do in order for the carom to be live.
Final score: Michigan 65, Iowa 63.
HawkeyeNation.com React with Jon Miller
One of Iowa's main points of emphasis this season was to ‘protect home', meaning to win its home games, something it did a poor job of last season. Dropping your first Big Ten home game of the year is not a good way to start league play…
Some of the old ‘snakes' that Iowa had thought it had killed came back into play in this game. Pierre Pierce was 6 of 17 shooting on the night, and he had seven turnovers. Pierce had six rebounds, five assists and three steals while leading the team with 15 points, but he continues to give away just as much as he contributes, to where at the end of the night, he is a net-net player. Iowa needs him to be a net-positive player…
Call it bad luck, call it an omen, call it whatever, but it's too bad that the hot Hawkeyes had one of their eight Big Ten home games on a night where there was a record snowfall in Iowa City and throughout the state, keeping many travelers at home who might have otherwise been at this game. There was little home court advantage in this contest….
Iowa might be regretting the fact that they scheduled Air Force and St. Louis back to back to close the out of conference portion of their schedule. Those two teams like to slow the game down and limit offensive possessions. Iowa's first half effort looked like they were playing against Air Force and their slow down tactics. This Iowa team is best when it can get out and run….
Rebounding is an area that could really hurt this Hawkeye team this season. Michigan had 11 more turnovers than Iowa, but the Wolverines outrebounded Iowa by 12. Michigan also made three more three-point shots than the Hawkeyes. Iowa shot .373 from the floor and just .250 from three. When Iowa is cold from the floor, they are in deep trouble, because they do not have the type of board game to overcome any shooting woes.
Iowa travels to Ohio State on Saturday. The Buckeyes lost to #1 Illinois on the road on Wednesday night by the score of 84-65.
This game takes on a lot of importance for Iowa, as they need to win on the road to erase the ugly home loss.