DES MOINES, Iowa - With Drake holding a comfortable lead in the closing minutes on Saturday, Iowa's Cyrus Tate walked to mid-court and contemplated throwing his mouthpiece. He thought better of it and headed to the bench with full frustration having set in for he and his teammates.
After handling Iowa State and Northern Iowa in convincing fashion last week, Iowa looked worse than it had all season in the Bulldogs' dominating 60-43 victory. Drake captured its third game consecutive in this series as their students chanted "this is our state" in the closing minutes. The Hawkeyes appeared to play more like last year's team than the one that came into the Knapp Center at 9-2.
Iowa scored the fewest points in a game against the Bulldogs since winning, 35-22, in 1936. Drake also won its 10th in-state game in a row.
Drake, who lost at home to Stephen F. Austin a week ago, improved to 9-3 having now beaten Iowa and Iowa State. The Bulldogs pretty much clinched the mythical state championship with two games remaining against Northern Iowa (0-2 against in-state opponents this season).
Josh Young paced the winners with a game-high 24 points courtesy of 14 of 15 shooting from the foul line. The home team converted 23 of 29 shots from the charity strike while the Hawkeyes were 5 of 7.
"I give all of the credit to Drake," Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said. "But you have to look and say other than how well they played and executed and outplayed us, what could we do? We've got to evaluate what the possibilities are as far as the lack of assertiveness that we had. We've got to address that and figure it out."
Iowa hadn't played in eight days and looked flat compared to the energy shown by the Bulldogs. Drake also won the battle of the boards, 41-24, including 12-4 on the offensive glass.
"Matching their intensity, we just didn't do that tonight," Iowa Center Jarryd Cole said. "That's what we needed to do and we failed to do so."
Iowa's leading scorer Anthony Tucker was played for the first time since being suspended for a public intoxication charge earlier this month. After missing two games, the freshman entered Saturday's contest with 5:25 remaining in the first half and promptly knocked down a 3-pointer on his first attempt a minute and a half later.
Tucker's outside shooting helped Iowa stay in the game in the second half. He finished with a team-high 12 points on 4 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc.
"It felt good (to get back on the court)," Tucker said. "I'm a little bit behind physically and mentally. But I felt alright."
Tucker, who spoke to the media for the first time since being suspended, apologized publicly to his teammates and coaches. He said that shooting and passing were the parts of his game that suffered the most during the layoff. He only returned to practice on Thursday.
"Passing, it sounds weird but there's timing to it, just hitting guys and rhythm and where they can make plays with the ball," said Tucker, who admitted to being surprised that he played on Saturday. " I felt like I made some bad decisions on the court."
The Hawkeyes cut a 19-point deficit to nine with about six minutes to play in the contest and looked to have gained some momentum. But Drake responded with its stingy zone defense that knocked Iowa off balance for much of the afternoon. The visitors continued to struggle with the Bulldogs dribble penetration on the other end of the floor and never got any closer than a tick under 10.
"Their zone made us be a little bit less aggressive than we normally would be; passing the ball around the perimeter for long stretches of time without penetrating or making them rotate or move at all," Tucker said. "We just have to be more aggressive against zones."
Said Iowa's Jake Kelly: "A lot of time with a zone you have to shoot a lot of outside three. We just weren't hitting them. But I don't think we were aggressive enough getting it in the middle and making things happen. When we got it in there, we were a little impatient"
Iowa played with foul trouble for most of the day. Starters Kelly (four points) and Tate (one point, four rebounds) each had three by the first minute of the second half. First-team point guard Jeff Peterson picked up his third with 15:54 remaining in the game. Kelly and Peterson were tagged with No. 4 before the 10-minute mark, and Kelly was disqualified with 6:35 to play in the contest.
Kelly played just 19 minutes and Tate logged only 16.
"We needed to adjust a bit, obviously, with the way they were calling it," Kelly said. "I've never played in a game where they called it like that. It's hard to play defense when you can't touch them."
The teams also tangled a few times during the contest. Jermain Davis and Josh Young mixed it up early in the game. Bucky Cox got into a shoving match with Gatens and some of the Iowa players after securing a loose ball and calling a timeout in front of the Hawkeye bench. Both players were charged with technical fouls.
"Obviously there was some emotion involved," Lickliter said. "It's an emotional game. I don't think there was anything flagrant or unsportsmanlike. It was separated quickly, the officials handled it and said that Matt had pursued the ball after the whistle. I think sometimes when you're pursuing that maybe it's hard to stop at the whistle. I don't know."
Iowa played without Kelly for about an eight-minute chunk of the first half after he picked up his second foul at 13:40 mark. His replacement, Devan Bawinkle, missed all four of his 3-point attempts during that stretch and the Hawkeyes experienced a severe drought. Bawinkle finished 1 of 8 on treys.
Drake ran out to a 29-10 lead with seven and a half minutes remaining in the first half courtesy of some shoddy zone defense by the Hawkeyes. The Bulldogs penetrated at will for too many uncontested lay-ups.
Kelly came back and Iowa cut its deficit to 12 points inside of one minute remaining the first half. But Young drove to the basket and Kelly was tagged with No. 3 with five seconds to play before the intermission. Lickliter was very unhappy with the call and let the officials know about it as he had done after several other whistles in the first 20 minutes.
Iowa shot 8 for 29 from 3-point land for the game (27.6 percent). Centers Cole and Tate each only took attempted two field goals.
"I think we had really good shooters shooting really good shots," Lickliter said. "But give Drake their due. They play it that way. And they're successful. And maybe it wasn't as easy as I thought it would have been. It looked like we had good looks with our shooters, but maybe they were contested more.
"I wasn't out there doing it. Maybe Drake may cover better than what I'm saying I think is a good look. I don't want to take anything away from them, but I did think we got some pretty good looks."
Iowa is idle until a Dec. 27 non-conference tilt with Western Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Lickliter and his players will attempt to answer some questions that popped up here at the Knapp Center on Saturday.
"I see these tape recorders up here because I might know something, but after that I don't feel like I know a whole lot to be quite honest with you," Lickliter said at the podium for Saturday's post-game press conference with his tongue planted in cheek. "I appreciate the vote of confidence here."