That sort of sounds like the title of a children's song, but it's a painful and all too real phrase for the Iowa Men's basketball team right now.
Iowa lost 74-72 at Penn State on Wednesday night, which ended any chance it had at an at large NCAA tournament bid. Well, I should say that's my opinion. But even the most optimistic Iowa fans knows that Iowa's only shot at making a third straight NCAA tourney is for the Hawkeyes to win the league's tournament that starts March 8th.
Iowa dug itself an early hole, trailing Penn State 11-0 at the first TV timeout that came at the 15:57 mark. Iowa had five turnovers at that juncture as well.
Iowa trailed 33-30 at halftime, and made several runs at Penn State in the Nittany Lions in the second half. Adam Haluska, who was named the nation's top scholar-basketball player earlier in the day, scored 22 second half points and led Iowa with 30.
But it was the last 20 or so seconds that will be the most painful and will haunt Haluska and his fellow teammates during the offseason. Nothing hurts worse than this question; what if?
The Hawkeyes were unable to get the ball into Haluska's hands during the final 20 seconds, trailing by two and having just gotten the ball on a Penn State turnover. But Seth Gorney's pass from the wing was mishandled by Mike Henderson, who scrambled near mid court to get the ball. His three-point shot at the buzzer was awkward, was from 23 feet and was in and out.
Did Iowa play poorly? I wouldn't say that, although its defense left a lot to be desired; PSU shot better than 48% from the floor and made 10-18 three's.
Iowa made over 46% of its shots, but was just 9 of 31 from three point range. 31 is a lot of three-point attempts, especially when Iowa attempted 58 total field goals in the game. But Penn State played zone defense for nearly the entire game, a they do game in and game out.
Iowa finished with 10 turnovers. That means they committed just 5 turnovers over the final 36 minutes of the game.
The biggest reason they lost is that they could not get a defense stop to save themselves. Each time Iowa made a run, Penn State not only answered back, but they answered back with either a conventional three-pointer or an old-school ‘and one'. I am serious when I say they did that nearly every time Iowa either took the lead or expanded it to three or four points. Penn State had an answer. Mike Walker was the big culprit, hitting five three's in the game.
Tyler Smith had 14 points for Iowa and Tony Freeman had 11. Jamelle Cornley, who suffered a hip-pointer against Illinois and was questionable for this game, led Penn State with 20. Geary Claxton had 18.
Iowa's record fell to 8-7 and they have one game remaining; Saturday at home against 9-6 Illinois. Indiana beat Northwestern on the road Wednesday night, moving them to 9-6 as well. They host Penn State on Saturday, and they will likely win that game and finish all alone in third place.
Losing a game against a team that had lost 13 straight games is disappointing, to say the least. Iowa had beaten Penn State six straight times since losing in Happy Valley in February of 2002, the lowest point of that very low season.
I am still trying to look at things within the context of a season that I didn't expect a whole lot. I didn't expect Iowa to win eight conference games, so when the smoke clears after Iowa plays its last game in March, I will still have to consider this season somewhat of a pleasant surprise.
Just how pleasant remains to be seen. If Iowa can beat Illinois to close its regular season, that will be a very good thing. You have to wonder what their mindset will be, however, as they have to know that their at large chances were left on the floor in Happy Valley when Mike Henderson's shot missed its mark.
If Iowa wins that game, and if my some twist of fate Iowa winds up losing a multi-team tie breaker for the 6th seed, that's a good hole to come out of. If Purdue beats Minnesota on Wednesday night, that will create a four-way tie for fifth place with Iowa, Purdue, Michigan and Michigan State. The Wolverines play Ohio State on Saturday while the Spartans travel to Wisconsin. Purdue plays Northwestern at home.
If Iowa and Purdue win on Saturday, and Indiana beats Penn State, that's a three-way tie for fourth place. Iowa's record against those two teams would be 2-1. Illinois would be 1-2, while Purdue would be 1-1. Illinois then would get the 6th seed. Iowa would beat Purdue in the tie-breaker and would be the 4th seed, with Purdue the 5th seed, meaning those two teams would play on Friday of the Big Ten tournament. If would also mean that they probably don't avoid meeting Ohio State on Saturday.
But such speculation is not what people want to read about right now. The loss on Wednesday is still too fresh in the mind, and a bit painful.
The slim chances that Iowa had at an NCAA at large bid are no more.
NOTE: With his 30 points on Wednesday night, Adam Haluska enters the final regular season game 31 points ahead of Wisconsin's Alando Tucker for the Big Ten scoring title. Wisconsin hosts Michigan State. It would take a 40-point night from Tucker and Haluska scoring just 9 points for Tucker to pull even with Adam. So while Haluska has not officially clinched that individual honor, he's all but there. I am sure that is little consolation for the senior.