Dec 7, 2017 at 10:30 pm | Print View
AMES — The names and faces change here over the years when Iowa plays Iowa State here in men’s basketball, but the song remains the same.
Iowa State’s 84-78 win over the Hawkeyes Thursday in Hilton Coliseum was torn from the pages of Iowa-ISU meetings of the past. Iowa rises to the occasion for a significant portion of the game, but the Cyclones weather the storm and eventually take over, and their fans end up singing “Sweet Caroline.”
If you were going to beat Iowa State in Hilton, which Iowa hasn’t done since 2003, this was set up as the year to do it. The Cyclones are a rebuilding brand after losing four senior starters who now play pro ball.
But the Hawkeyes, despite losing just one integral player in Peter Jok, have been searching for leadership. Tyler Cook did a lot of nice things in the first half, then became a non-factor.
Iowa did get have a big, bright light in 6-foot-11 freshman Jack Nunge, who played older than his years with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists. Sophomore guard Jordan Bohannon had a big first half, and soph forward Cordell Pemsl was really good after halftime until he hurt his leg in a scary collision late in the game. But the pieces never formed a mosaic.
And, there were 12 second-half turnovers for a total of 18.
“Poor decision-making,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said. “Good kids trying to make plays that aren’t there.
“I think we’ll continue to get better in that area.”
The Hawkeyes couldn’t survive committing 10 more turnovers than a team had three freshmen on the floor for parts of the second half.
“The effort was there,” McCaffery said. “The execution was not at times. But it was at times.”
Prediction: The Hawkeyes will never again lose when they outrebound a team 53-31. But 20 offensive rebounds produced only 16 second-chance points, which the Cyclones made up for with steals (nine to Iowa’s two) and ball-protection.
“We’re growing up,” ISU Coach Steve Prohm said. “We’ve got a long way to go.
“We don’t have an identity yet, but we’re starting to make steps.”
If Iowa had a Lindell Wigginton, well, Iowa State is glad it’s the team that does. The freshman from Nova Scotia quickly is establishing himself as the Cyclones’ third premier Canadian player after Melvin Ejim and Naz Mitrou-Long.
Wigginton played a turnover-free 37 minutes in the most-intense game of his young career, scoring 24 points.
“It was crazy,” Wigginton said about the crowd noise. “I never heard that before in my life. The fans are crazy. I was loving it, though. I was getting a little hyped. I don’t usually get hyped.”
Iowa State began the season with losses to Missouri and Milwaukee. Now it’s 6-2. Not a cocky 6-2. A happy-to-be 6-2.
“We gave up 20 offensive rebounds,” said Cyclones guard Nick Weiler-Babb, who had 10 assists and 4 steals. “We can improve on that.”
Iowa, on the other hand, is an ugly 4-6. It’s 1-6 if you remove opponents who aren’t Chicago State or from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. And, the Hawkeyes have already dug an 0-2 hole in the Big Ten.
But there’s no dog on this team that does have several pups. No, Iowa isn’t championship timbre, yet it’s still too early to write it off as a Big Ten foot wipe.
But it could sure use a Wigginton to fall from the sky onto its roster.