Hensley: For now, it’s a Hawkeye State

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Hensley: For now, it’s a Hawkeye State

Iowa State forward Deonte Burton tries to get around Iowa forward Ahmad Wagner during the game between rivals Iowa State-Iowa at Carver Hawkeye on Thursday, December 8, 2016. The Hawkeyes went on to upset the Cyclones 78-64. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Iowa State forward Deonte Burton tries to get around Iowa forward Ahmad Wagner during the game between rivals Iowa State-Iowa at Carver Hawkeye on Thursday, December 8, 2016. The Hawkeyes went on to upset the Cyclones 78-64. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Iowa State forward Deonte Burton tries to get around Iowa forward Ahmad Wagner during the game between rivals Iowa State-Iowa at Carver Hawkeye on Thursday, December 8, 2016. The Hawkeyes went on to upset the Cyclones 78-64. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

Iowa State forward Deonte Burton tries to get around Iowa forward Ahmad Wagner during the game between rivals Iowa State-Iowa at Carver Hawkeye on Thursday, December 8, 2016. The Hawkeyes went on to upset the Cyclones 78-64. (The Daily Iowan/ Alex Kroeze)

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In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Iowa State’s Monte Morris said the following about the Iowa-Iowa State basketball game: “We want to go in there and make a statement — set the tone and send a message both to Iowa and the country. We’re trying to go out there and beat them badly.”

That didn’t go as intended.

The Hawkeyes weren’t going to roll over without a fight — Iowa put on its best performance of the season in its biggest game this season.

The game’s defining moment came late in the second half.

Iowa hed a commanding a 16-point lead, but the Cyclones slowly chipped away, narrowing the gap to 7 points.

With 5:55 left in the game and the crowd’s anxiety building, freshman Jordan Bohannon pulled up and nailed a deep 3-pointer, boosting the Hawkeye lead to 10.

The Hawkeyes didn’t looked back.

During the game, Peter Jok stayed one step ahead of the Cyclone defense — or one step back, like on his smooth jump shot.

But after Iowa State narrowed its focus on Jok in the second half, the Hawkeyes needed someone to step up when called upon, as Bohannon demonstrated with his 3-pointer from the city limits.

Or as Isaiah Moss, the redshirt freshman who scored 14 points and brought Carver to its feet with each bucket he scored with contact in transition.

Nicholas Baer stepped up too. The one-time starter-turned-sixth man hustled his way for a near double-double while accepting and embracing a new role.

Even Cordell Pemsl, the freshman who tore his meniscus twice before becoming a Hawkeye, seemed automatic in the paint and help orchestrate Iowa’s best defensive effort this year.

When Iowa’s freshman phenom Tyler Cook fractured his finger, fans questioned who would step up; Jok couldn’t carry the entire team on his back.

Turns out, a team effort, not just a single player, carried Iowa to an upset victory.

The Cyclones — or at least star point guard Morris — entered the game wanting to run the Hawkeyes out of Iowa City.

Realistically, after a four-game losing streak (including a loss to Nebraska-Omaha), who could have predicted a 14-point Hawkeye win against the No. 25 team in the nation?

The Iowa program did, of course. This group of players is chock-full of pride, an immense amount for a team with many new faces.

This season hasn’t been ideal, but the win over Iowa State proved fans shouldn’t doubt this team, especially when the stakes get higher.

Head coach Fran McCaffery said that this season will be “a journey.”

He doesn’t know exactly where this team will go. I’m not sure anyone does, because this team isn’t like any of his previous Hawkeye squads.

This team lacks experience compared with past seasons, but don’t tell the players that.

That inexperience, a team whose starting lineup consists of three freshmen, a sophomore, and a senior, just calmed a storm of five battle-tested seniors.

Iowa has nine days before it competes again, against Northern Iowa. McCaffery said the first thing to do now that the team has a break is to enjoy the win.

Fans should do the same.

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