Sunday, December 19, 2004
Iowa 88, Western Carolina 75
Since I paid about $11 per game for my basketball tickets, and since I question whether I got my money's worth after yesterday's game, I wonder how many fans were satisfied with their $20 and $26 dollar purchases. To an Iowa fan, or to anyone who enjoys clean, fundamentally sound basketball, this game was generally not pretty.
WCU shot 1-13 in getting into an early 22-3 hole. Several of those shots came in the paint and didn't even draw rim. Just ugly basketball. With Iowa leading 24-5 heading into the 8:00 TV timeout, I was starting to wonder if this box score would stick out from the sports page the way Oklahoma State's 81-29 victory over Washington State had earlier this year. It was brutal to watch their total ineptness on offense, and several Iowa student hecklers verbalized their displeasure in choosing this game over a couple extra hours downtown.
Things were different after that timeout. WCU went on to score 70 points in the remaining 28 minutes, a pace that projects to 100 points over a full 40 minutes. Iowa's offense, which had been centered on throwing a 3/4 court pass Pierre Pierce off of Catamount turnovers and missed shots, disappeared for the rest of the first half. WCU's aggressive mand to man defense gave the Hawkeyes fits, and their lead was trimmed to seven points. They took a 32-25 lead into half time.
At that point, while Iowa's "Golden Girl" performed her baton-twirling routine (which was very good, by the way), you had to figure Coach Alford was screaming himself hoarse in the locker room. He confirmed that suspicion in the post-game press conference (from DM Register) -
I did more than snap at Jeff and Pierre,'' Alford said. "I did not like the wayIowa responded with a good run to start the second half, and their lead was never really challenged the rest of the way. The defense left a lot to be desired, though, as WCU was able to score 50 second half points. Some credit should go to WCU's perimiter shooting - despite only hitting 28% of their threes coming into the game, they were able to knock down 12 of 24 yesterday. All in all, it wasn't a great effort from Iowa, but I'm willing to chalk it up to the 8-day layoff and the finals week fatigue, forget about it, and move on to the big game against Texas Tech on Tuesday.
we played from the 8-minute mark on. A lot of it had to do with those two.
Sometimes you have to send that message, even to your best players.''
- Newspaper writers might soon run out of superlatives to describe the play of Jeff Horner, but I doubt many Iowa fans will mind. His 3 point first half had me ready to write this off as another of his pass-first, score-when-needed efforts he usually puts forth against the lesser opponents. With Iowa's offense out of sync, he shifted into that scoring mode in a second half run that was, dare I say, Jordan-esque. In that 3:44 span, Horner scored 15 of Iowa's 18 points. He knocked down 3 threes and capped the run off with one of those I'm-a-little-out-of-control-but-I'll-throw-it-up-over-my-shoulder-anyway-because-I-just-can't-miss reverse layups that were made famous by Jordan himself. Jeff's thoughts -
"I was hoping for a foul," Horner said with a sheepish grin. "I just threw itWCU coach Steve Surina coached last year's 26th pick in the NBA draft, Kevin Martin, and was eager to praise Horner's play, saying he thought Jeff would play in the NBA for a long time.
up there, turned around and it went in. Thank God it did. Otherwise I might have
been sitting on the bench next to coach."
- A quick check of the box score shows several nice individual performances for Iowa. One was by Pierce, who scored 21 points, had 8 rebounds and 4 steals in only 24 minutes of play. This might have been the first game where Pierre didn't force any shots, and he ended up 8-11 from the field. Before I start to depart from my normally critical treatment of Pierce, I should note that he led the team with 5 turnovers and only shot 4-10 at the line, which dropped him to 47% on the season.
- Doug Thomas only played 10 minutes, due to foul trouble and being sick during the past week, but I'm curious about his playing time for the rest of the year. More to come in my Season in Review.
- Greg Brunner was solid, again. His line included 11 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks. He's averaging 12 rpg in the two games since Alford called him out for allowing Horner to be nearly tied with him in rebounds.
- Consider how fast-paced the game was - according to our trusty possessions formula, both teams had roughly 85 possessions. That's a lot. Iowa leads the Big Ten, by a wide margin, by averaging 73 poss/game. Given that many opportunities, Iowa's 88 point output doesn't look like much. It's only good for 102.9 pts/100 poss, which dropped their season figure to 113.5.
- Another meager crowd, but that was expected for a winter break game against a Southern Conference team. My friend and I showed up about 25 minutes before tip-off and walked straight down to the front row.
- The basketball team left for Chicago today. They're taking in the Bulls-Blazers game Monday night before taking the United Center court against Texas Tech on Tuesday.