Hensley: Nebraska loss a microcosm of Iowa basketball’s late-season finish

Realistically, Iowa should have beaten Nebraska. Then again, the Hawkeyes should have also won more than 10 games in conference play.


Roman Slabach

Iowa Forward Luka Garza #55 shows dissapointment during a mens basketball game between Iowa Hawkeye and the Nebraska Huskers at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Sunday, March 10, 2019. The Hawkeyes fell in overtime to the Huskers, 93-91.

Adam Hensley, Pregame Editor

LINCOLN, Neb. – In 2004, Tracy McGrady scored 13 points in 35 seconds to elevate the Houston Rockets over the San Antonio Spurs.

YouTube it if you’ve never seen it, because that’s essentially what happened on Sunday when Nebraska – a team that appeared to be on its last gasp of air – roared back and scored 16 points in the final 57 seconds of regulation to send its game against Iowa into overtime.

The Huskers came out on top, 93-91. In a head-scratching blink-of-an-eye comeback, Nebraska gave Iowa a dose of its own late heroics in crumbling fashion.

Right around the 1-minute mark, Jordan Bohannon jacked up a 3-pointer from the parking lot, and I sat at my computer, furiously typing away on how Iowa returned to its winning ways and finally got its offense back into some sort of a rhythm in the regular-season finale.

Then Glynn Watson and James Palmer happened.

Those two made shot after shot to force the game into overtime and then kept the momentum going until the final buzzer. So, kudos to them.

But for Iowa, this was a game the Hawkeyes should have won. A mishap on an inbounds play, a crucial missed free throw before overtime, and some hot hands led to Iowa’s demise.

This game left me thinking, what if? This loss served as a microcosm of Iowa’s season – a sweet start that turned sour in the blink of an eye.

On Feb. 1, Iowa smacked No. 5 Michigan by 15 points in Iowa City. That game, Iowa never took its foot off the gas pedal, and it proved that it could beat the cream of the crop in conference play.

Follow that win up with three wild finishes – all wins for the Hawkeyes – and Iowa seemed poised for a potential run at a conference championship, boasting a 20-5 overall record (9-5 in Big Ten play).

From there, though, Iowa went 1-5. Two of those losses came against teams with an overall record below .500.

In nearly every game (except Sunday’s loss to the Huskers), the Hawkeyes came out flat offensively and struggled on the defensive end as well – a complete 180 from how this team played in the first 25 games of the season.

What Iowa’s done this year has far surpassed my expectations, as well as many others who follow Hawkeye hoops. But given the level of play earlier in the season, it’s not unreasonable in the slightest to argue that Iowa’s finish in the regular season is a disappointment.

The Iowa team that took down Michigan and completed miraculous finishes certainly wasn’t the one that closed out the season losing five of its last six.

Fran McCaffery’s record in the month of March while at Iowa is 18-22. In three of the last four seasons, he’s had a losing record in that month. Iowa is 0-3 this season in March.

There’s plenty of basketball left. The Big Ten Tournament is this week, and I truly believe the Hawkeyes have a resume credible enough to make it to the NCAA Tournament. However, I didn’t see this late-season collapse coming.

Then again, the Spurs didn’t foresee McGrady dropping 13 in 35 seconds, and the Hawkeyes didn’t anticipate 16 in 47 from Nebraska.