Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Iowa 76, Northern Iowa 73
Finally, an exciting home game! Iowa looked like they were getting ready to put the exlamation point on a win over a talented UNI team, right up until the offense went stale in the second half and the Panthers' shooters got hot. Before you knew it, UNI held the ball with 18 seconds on the clock and only a one point deficit. The clear go-to option was Ben Jacobsen, who had been draining shots of various difficulty all game. UNI got him the ball, but Pierre Pierce was shadowing every step he took, and Jacobsen missed a tough jumper. Iowa's Jeff Horner ended up on the floor with his ninth rebound of the game and a referee signaling a foul on UNI. Horner went to the line to shoot a 1-and-1 with 4.5 seconds left. He calmly dropped in both shots. Whew, three point cushion. UNI could only get off a half-court shot, but it rim and had everyone holding their breath. The way the game had gone back and forth, I doubt many people would have been surprised if it the shot had dropped.
In a game that was hyped for all the talented guards involved, it was the big men that repeatedly came through. UNI's Eric Coleman finished with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists. For Iowa it was Erek Hansen hitting his first six shots early, including a three-pointer, en route to a 13 point first half, and Greg Brunner carrying the team with 12 points in a three or four minute stretch in the second half. Brunner finished with a team-high 23 points.
- Greg Brunner - you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him! That might be laying it on a little thick for a guy averaging 13.6 points a game, but when your big man takes charge of the second half, even stepping out to knock down a couple treys in a close game, it's easy to get excited. I wish more people in Iowa City could get excited about this team, but we'll get to that. Brooooner scored almost anytime he got the ball down low, hitting 10 of his 13 field goals. Move over Doug Thomas, this team has a new FG% leader - Brunner is now hitting 63% of his shots.
- Iowa officially has three team captains in juniors Pierce, Horner, and Brunner, but this is fast-becoming Horner's team. He carried the Hawks to the two big wins in Maui and seems to do everything on the court, especially in crunch time. His rebound and FTs were of course huge, and another play stood out for me tonight. After Iowa let a 11 point lead fall to 3 by not making a FG for 4 and a half minutes late in the second half, Horner's top of the key three put Iowa back up six with 1:33 to go. The offense looked lost in that stretch, and every shot UNI hit frustrated the crowd a little more. Horner's three got everyone back off their seats. He finished the night with 16 points, nine rebounds, and four more 3-pointers.
- Adam Haluska had a quiet night and only scored five points. I thought he had a chance to overcome the drought and to also expedite Hawkeye fans' acceptance of him when he went to the free throw line with 25 seconds left. Haluska was shooting a 1-and-1 after UNI hit a 3 to close the score to 74-73. Too bad though, he missed the first shot and UNI got the ball back.
- Until Pete Schmitt hit a 3 with 10:10 left in the game, only three Panther players had managed to score. One of the 0-fers was Erik Crawford. The Missouri Valley Conference's leading scorer was limited to nine points.
- Iowa was hot again from downtown, hitting 10-18 threes. That makes them 21-37 in the last two games and 44% on the season.
- I don't have any numbers to back it up, but suffice it to say I thought Pierce and Mike Henderson did a great job defending some excellent scoring threats.
- This was generally an aesthetically pleasing game - both teams shot over 50%, they combined for only 15 turnovers, and the refs only called 28 fouls.
- Is anyone going to show up for Iowa games this year? Let's recap things tonight - we're ranked #17 in the country and have beaten two very good teams. We're playing UNI who 1) is less than 90 minutes away, 2) was the only team in the state to make the NCAA tournament last year, 3) recently crushed Iowa State and 4) took Cincinnati to double-overtime on the road. So, our team is talented, our opponent is talented and nearby, and we reach......2/3 capacity? Ugh, that's right, there were 10, 349 people in Carver-Hawkeye tonight. And it wasn't all black and gold - you could hear chants of U-N-I under the Let's-Go-Hawks. I went up to the concourse 5-10 minutes before tip-off to make a phone call, and from up there the student section looked maybe 1/3 full. Unacceptable. Ticket prices do seem high relative to other schools, but don't overlook that a lot of other schools subsidize student tickets by charging all students with a hefty athletic fee, which Iowa does not. Anyway, Iowa State comes to town Friday night, so let's hope there's a few more people in attendance.
- Note to the band - you're killing the fight song. Yes, people in the student section stand up and clap for it, but did you not notice that they stand up for the entire game? The rest of the crowd - the people you're not reaching - doesn't stand up for it because you play the song at nearly every time out in the second half. Tonight was ridiculous - you squeezed it into every :30 timeout and break in the action down the stretch. I can say with certainty that it was played at least 5 times in the last 10 minutes of the game. Here's how smart schools handle this situation - they play the fight song sparingly. That way, alumni and older fans are willing to stand up and clap because they only have to do it two or three times a game. Once this pattern is established, the fight song becomes a good strategic tool - you play it during a timeout near the end of a close game, everyone stands up and does their thing, and....wait for it...when the team comes onto the court after the timeout, you have the whole building on their feet. It's amazing how much more people will get into the game when they're standing. Like I said, this move is best saved for the end of the game. And no, I'm not blind to the irony of a guy complaining about school spirit (no one coming to the games) who claims that the fight song is overplayed.