Iowa Men's Basketball

Cold Iowa men's basketball team faces colder Nebraska

Hawkeyes try to end 3-game tailspin by beating Huskers

Iowa guard Maishe Dailey (1) leaps past Nebraska guards Nana Akenten (25) and Glynn Watson Jr. (5) during the Hawkeyes’ 93-84 win over the Cornhuskers on Jan. 6 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa guard Maishe Dailey (1) leaps past Nebraska guards Nana Akenten (25) and Glynn Watson Jr. (5) during the Hawkeyes’ 93-84 win over the Cornhuskers on Jan. 6 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Misery, welcome company. The sound of this season for Nebraska men’s basketball team is splat. Ranked 23rd nationally before their 93-84 loss at Iowa on Jan. 6, the Cornhuskers have dropped 11 of their last 13 games, are 5-14 in the Big Ten, and are expected to see head coach Tim Miles get fired after the season.

So that’s not great.

Joining the Huskers for their Senior Day game Sunday at 1 p.m. in Pinnacle Bank Arena is Iowa, which has been a lot better overall but just as woeful of late.

The Hawkeyes are 10-9 in the Big Ten and in everyone’s NCAA tournament bracketology for now, but there has been considerable slippage recently. Iowa has dropped its last three games, by an average of 18.0 points.

Who better for the Hawkeyes to play Sunday than a team playing out the string that has lost its last four contests by an average of 17.8 points?

Well, another game against Savannah State would be better. However, you can’t be choosy on the final day of the Big Ten’s regular season.

Iowa welcomes back the sideline presence of head coach Fran McCaffery, whose team was blown out twice during his two-game, Iowa-imposed suspension for his postgame altercation with a game official Feb. 26 at Ohio State. Which also was a game in which the Hawkeyes were on the wrong end of a one-sided score.

McCaffery had a meltdown. His team then froze up, offensively.

“I’m sure he’s frustrated like we are,” Hawkeye guard Jordan Bohannon said after Iowa’s 65-45 loss at Wisconsin Thursday. “I think his message is going to be stay positive.”

Why not? In many seasons, this sort of late-season fall from grace would put a 21-9 team on the NCAA tourney’s bubble or worse. But Iowa still appears OK for now, at least in that regard. Lose Sunday and again in its Big Ten tourney opener Thursday night, though, and that narrative takes a dark turn.

“We understand we’re going through a little bit of a stretch right now where we’re not playing our best basketball,” Iowa senior forward Nicholas Baer said. “We’re not shooting the ball great.”

Two of the Hawkeyes’ three worst shooting games of the season were in the last two games. The 30.5 percent at Wisconsin was a season-low.

Starters Jordan Bohannon, Isaiah Moss and Joe Wieskamp are a combined 12-of-47 from the field and 6-of-26 from 3-point distance over the last two games.

“We’ve got a team-full of guys who can really shoot the ball, that are really gifted offensively,” said Hawkeye junior forward Tyler Cook, who was 0-for-6 at Wisconsin and had the first scoreless game of his career.

If it’s a consolation to Iowa, Nebraska’s last two foes — Michigan and Michigan State, mind you — shot 55.6 and 53.3 percent, respectively, against the Huskers.

Nebraska is hurting physically as well as psychically. Starting forward Isaac Copeland (14 points per game) tore an ACL in late January, ending his senior season. Starting guard Thomas Allen (8.7 ppg) missed the Huskers’ last game with a sprained ankle.

Also, backup sophomore forward Nana Akenten (12 minutes per game) was suspended Wednesday for violation of team rules.

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Copeland, Allen and Akenten combined for 41 points in the Huskers’ 93-84 loss at Iowa on Jan. 6.

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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