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Tuesday, November 22, 2005
 
Iowa 67, Kentucky 63
That was fun.

Iowa and Kentucky battled back and forth in a game that was close throughout. The Hawks hit enough free throws in the final minute to eke out a four point win and legitimize their top 25 ranking. Their efforts will be rewarded by a matchup on Tuesday night with #2 Texas, who played a barn-burner of their own in beating West Virginia.

Cold shooting was the story of the night, though Kentucky did score on four straight possessions early in the game. That 10-0 run built a seven point lead, which was biggest margin either team could build. Kentucky hit nine threes in the game, but missed just about everything else en route to a 40.2 eFG%. Iowa wasn't much better, finishing with a 41.7 eFG% and hitting only 4 of 15 threes. Point guard Rajon Rondo entered the game as Kentucky's leading scorer, but he was held to 1-of-9 shooting by Iowa's defensive tag team of Mike Henderson and Tony Freeman.

Henderson's play was a pleasant surprise for most Hawkeye fans, including this one. He repeatedly penetrated the defense, which resulted in shots close to the basket and nine free throw attempts. Mike's 15 points were second-most on the team, and he added seven rebounds and four steals. He was also frequently responsible for bringing the ball up against Kentucky's press. I've given him a lot of heat in the past, but he finally looks like a guy who adds value to the team, especially on defense.

It's a good thing Henderson did step up, however, because the rest of the backcourt was in a funk. Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska combined to shoot 3 for 19, including 2 for 11 on three-pointers. Some of those shots were fairly open, too. Let's hope they make adjustments today, because their shooting will be needed in tonight's game against Texas.

Horner once again showed why he's one of the best passers in the Big Ten. He hit Doug Thomas with a near-perfect alley-oop from half court that the big guy couldn't quite finish. He also found guys for easy layups - the transition pass to Alex Thompson stands out in my mind - and finished with eight assists.

Henderson might have been the breakout player, but Greg Brunner was still the man who carried the team to the winner's circle. His five straight points ended Kentucky's early 10-0 run and quieted the blue-clad section of the crowd, which had been getting pretty loud. He broke a tie with just under four minutes to go with a spinning baseline layup that also drew a foul. He also grabbed 12 rebounds despite often giving a few inches to the players around him. On top of that, my eyes tell me that he might just be the best passing big man in the Big Ten. That pass to Freeman for a layup in the second half was beautiful.

Erek Hansen got into early foul trouble and hit the bench before the 17:00 mark for the second time in three games. He came back in the second half with some monster defensive plays. Any Wildcat who found his way into Hansen's lane was likely to get his shot sent back or at least altered. Erek had five blocks in only 15 minutes of action, and they all came at crucial points. I'm sure Hawkeye fans everywhere cursed him out for the two traveling calls, but he did add a putback and a jump shot and finished with six points. I'm really starting to like our defense when Hansen's on the court.

Thunder Doug's dunkless streak is up to two games, but he contributed in other areas. His line included six points, seven rebounds, and three blocks in 21 minutes. He even added a Thunder Dime ®. He already looks less awkward and more capable of fitting into the offense than he did at any time last year.

Stats of Note
The game had roughly 74 possessions, meaning Iowa's offensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions) was about 90.6. That won't get it done most nights, but a defensive efficiency of 85.2 will help you out anytime the offense hits a rough patch. I still feel like this has a lot to do with Kentucky's holes on offense, but we'll take the W.

Iowa turned it over 14 times, or on about 20% of their possessions. That's pretty average on most nights, but against Kentucky it should really be considered a success. A lot of those turnovers were stupid travels and not the result of being overmatched, so I'd expect less of them as the season goes on.

The Hawks actually got beat pretty badly on the boards. They rebounded only 27% of their own misses, mainly because Rondo was grabbing everything in sight. He had 17(!) defensive rebounds, and 19 total. Kentucky rebounded 35% of their missed shots.

From what I've read elsewhere, everyone seems to perceive this game as an upset. Was it really, though? Is this really a Kentucky team that will earn another low seed in the tournament? Who's going to score points for them all year, especially if Rondo has another off night? Defense wins games, but it's still only half of the equation. I think this win will look less and less impressive as the season goes on. Tonight is the real test.
Comments:
Congrats on the win!
 
Ugh...Iowa can win this tournament...I do not think Texas is as good as advertised.

ISU gets both of these teams at home this year. LOL

Anyone else think Greg Brunner should grow a mullet?
 
Tubby Smith sounded pretty darn negative about his team in Andy Katz's column. Was Kentucky shooting that badly or was it Iowa's defense?
 
I thought Hansen did a good job of forcing misses, but he only played for 15 minutes. Kentucky did miss a lot of shots near the basket.
 
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