Hawks Let One Slip Away

The men who wear the I-O-W-A on their chest deserve a better fate than what they met on Wednesday night. Iowa, playing without leading scorer Pierre Pierce for the rest of the year, led by 13 points midway through the second half at Wisconsin. But the Badgers went on a 17-2 run and thanks to a 21 more free throw attempts, Wisconsin pulled out the 72-69 victory. One has to wonder; how can the Hawkeyes keep pulling themselves up off the mat?

BOX SCORE | PHOTO GALLERY

That one hurt.

Iowa's 72-69 loss at Wisconsin on Wednesday night will surely leave a mark in the minds of the Hawkeye squad.

They held a 13-point lead midway through the second half in one of the most difficult places to win in the Big Ten.

Jeff Horner seemed to snap out of a long and extended shooting slump, Greg Brunner was playing huge and the Hawkeyes were not turning it over.

Yet Wisconsin went on a 17-2 run to take a two point lead with under five minutes remaining, and after that the Badgers marched to the foul line and hit their shots as the Hawkeyes lost for the sixth time in nine tries in league play, falling to 15-7 on the season and seeing their NCAA tournament hopes fading into the February chill.

Iowa deserved a better fate than what it received on Wednesday.

Per ESPN's unofficial box score, they committed just six turnovers. If that statistic is accurate, who knows how long it has been since an Iowa team had just six turnovers. Iowa only lost the rebounding battle by two boards and they were plus four on the offensive glass.

They took 17 more shots and made seven more baskets than did Wisconsin. They made three more three-point field goals than did Wisconsin. The difference is that Iowa was whistled for 10 more fouls and shot 21 fewer free throws than did the Badgers.

Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, they only made 50 percent of the 14 free throws they did attempt and the Badgers were plus 20 points at the line.

There is the ballgame.

Greg Brunner scored 27 points and he was Iowa's sole source of offense in the early going, hitting shots in the paint, from midrange as well as two three-point goals. Jeff Horner seemingly got his groove back, connecting on 5 of 10 three pointers. Adam Haluska scored 16 points in a solid performance…

The fourth member of Iowa's season long offensive attack, Pierre Pierce, was officially charged in connection to a West Des Moines investigation and he was dismissed from the program last week.

With Pierce gone, Iowa has yet to find anyone that can create their own shot. After the past two games without Pierce, they should not hold their breath in the hopes that someone is going to start doing that, either.

Mike Henderson and Carlton Reed, the two players who are being called upon to replace Pierce's 17 points per game, combined to score four points.

It's hard to get down on the players who are still on the team, because Pierce's selfishness and horrible judgment have left them in the lurch for the second time in two years.

You have to applaud their effort, their intensity and their refusal to give in to the adversity.

However, qualification for the NCAA tournament is about results; more wins than losses and playing well down the stretch.

Iowa hosts Northwestern this weekend and travels to Purdue next weekend. Those are two must win games for Iowa with top-ranked Illinois and upstart Minnesota coming up after that.

A trip to Penn State and then a home game against Ohio State are two more must win games for this team and then Iowa closes at Michigan, one of the most inhospitable venues that Iowa has ever played in.

If Iowa wins those four must win games, they will likely still have to win one of the three against Illinois, @Minnesota and @Michigan.

There is not only no margin for error, this team is going to have to pull an upset along the way as well. Though not impossible, the clock is definitely ticking and Iowa is on the bubble with seven regular season games left to play.


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