Hawkeyes head into matchup against No. 7 Ohio State with reclaimed momentum

The Hawkeyes found their groove Tuesday night, snapping a two-game skid with a win over Michigan State. Now, Iowa aims to put together a winning streak.


Iowa center Luka Garza celebrates during a men’s basketball game between Iowa and Penn State on Saturday, Feb. 29 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Hawkeyes defeated the Nittany Lions 77-68.

Austin Hanson, Sports Editor

After dropping two-straight games, Iowa men’s basketball snapped its skid and recaptured some of its early-season momentum with an 84-78 win over Michigan State Tuesday night.

For the Hawkeyes, the victory was much-needed as both of their two most recent losses came in heartbreaking fashion. First, the Hawkeyes were upset by unranked Indiana at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, 81-69, on Jan. 21. Then, they were defeated, 80-75, by No. 12 Illinois on Jan. 30 at State Farm Center in Champaign.

No. 8 Iowa also appears to have ended its brief losing streak at a fortuitous time, as it is set to welcome No. 7 Ohio State to Iowa City Thursday night. According to center Luka Garza, Tuesday’s victory over Michigan State allows the Hawkeyes to enter the top-10 matchup against Ohio State with confidence, rather than timidity. 

“I think it’s just great for us to get back in that win column,” Garza said Tuesday. “It sucks to lose, especially when we’ve been so successful and there’s a lot of eyes on us. We all hold ourselves to a really high standard, especially this year. The guys that came back, the guys that are playing, we want to win. I didn’t come back [to Iowa] to score points. I came back to win games, and that’s the mindset of everybody on this team.”

“When you’re losing games, it’s tough,” Garza said. “You lose one like Indiana where you feel like you didn’t bring it. Then, you lose a tough one at Illinois where you couldn’t execute as much as you wanted to down the stretch. To be able to push a close one out when we didn’t even play our best, that’s huge for our confidence going forward.”

Iowa’s inability to execute late in games is what ultimately doomed it against both Indiana and Illinois. 

The Hawkeyes led the Hoosiers by as much as eight in the second half of their Jan. 21 game, but then an 11-minute scoring drought led the Hawkeyes to a loss.

RELATED: Stagnant second-half offense dooms Iowa in loss to Indiana

At Illinois, Iowa also had chances to win late in the game, the most significant of which being guard Jordan Bohannon’s missed 3-point jumper with seven seconds to go. Had the shot gone down, the Hawkeyes would’ve been tied with the Illini at 78 with under six seconds to play.

After Bohannon’s shot hit back iron, the Hawkeyes fouled Illinois center Kofi Cockburn – a 53 percent free-throw shooter this season. Cockburn missed the front end of a one-and-one trip to the charity stripe. Iowa, however, could not secure the rebound and give themselves another chance to tie. Instead, Cockburn collected his own rebound and iced the game with two free throws to go up five with two seconds to go. 

RELATED: No. 7 Hawkeyes stumble in rematch with No. 19 Fighting Illini

Against the Spartans, head coach Fran McCaffery’s team finally cashed in on some opportunities late in a game, ballooning a two-point lead with 1:21 remaining in the game to six before the final buzzer sounded.

“I thought we got the stops we needed [Tuesday],” McCaffery said. “. . . We did run some good stuff. We missed a couple, but we ran good offense. We executed well. And, of course, we were in the bonus so we got to the free-throw line enough to make sure that we won. Anticipating the quality of opponent on Thursday, but every game after that, that’s what you need.”

McCaffery, Garza, and the Hawkeyes hope to harness the momentum they gained Tuesday and ride it through the end of the week and beyond, picking up more steam as the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments approach.

“We need to get ourselves on a run,” Garza said. “Going into the rest of the postseason and everything like that, we know we’re 10 games through the Big Ten [season] right now. We’re 7-3, and we have 10 more games to do what we want to do. We got a huge one here against Ohio State, a team ranked ahead of us, and it’s going to be a great one.”

Tipoff between the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes is scheduled for 6 p.m. The game will air on ESPN.

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