Iowa head coach Steve Alford told us after his team's NCAA bubble had burst on Wednesday at Minnesota that perhaps now his team could relax and just play since the pressure was no longer on them. Greg Brunner and other Iowa players echoed those comments.
Perhaps they were not pulling our leg, as Iowa cruised to a 78-56 win on the road at Penn State on Saturday in a game that was certainly void of pressure…or significance.
That is not to minimize Iowa's play, as it was exceptional at times.
Iowa scored several points in transition, marking the first time we have seen an up tempo effort from the Hawkeyes since before conference play began. Iowa scored 22 fast break points to Penn State's four.
Adam Haluska led the way for the Hawkeyes with 22 points on 10 of 14 shooting. He is averaging 19.0 points per game snf 5.1 rebounds per game in the seven contests since Pierre Pierce's dismissal from the team, and he is playing better than any Hawkeye has all season.
Jeff Horner scored 19 points, leaving him with 999 for his career. He will have a chance to top the 1,000-point barrier in front of the home folks on Wednesday night in Iowa City.
Greg Brunner scored 14 points and grabbed 14 rebounds for his 10th triple double of the year.
Seth Gorney was Iowa's first player off of the bench and he scored six points for Iowa, including four points off of offensive rebounds when the game was still in doubt. Iowa's bench scored 17 points to Penn State's 20.
It was Iowa's first Big Ten road win of the year and Iowa's record improved to 5-9 in league play and 17-10 overall. Iowa has two regular season games remaining; Wednesday against Ohio State and next Saturday at Michigan.
The Hawkeyes would like to repay each opponent for their role in getting this Big Ten season off to a dubious beginning.
It was my opinion on Wednesday night that Iowa is in a ‘win four in four' situation at the Big Ten tournament if they want to get into the NCAA tournament, no matter how it finished the regular season.
I feel strongly that we are looking at that same scenario, regardless of Iowa's impressive win today.
It might have been interesting to see what Alford could have done with these players if he would have had them together in October with the mindset that there would be no Pierre Pierce in the equation.
Adam Haluska has become a very good player in this motion offense. In fact, he looks as good as any Hawkeye has looked in Alford's offense, including Luke Recker.
But that is not the hand that Iowa was dealt, and second guessing and ‘what if's' have been far too common over the past six years.
But if these Hawkeyes can carry this ‘no pressure' attitude into the Big Ten tournament…well, let's wait and see how they look over the final two games of the regular season.
No matter, it was fun watching them have fun on Saturday.