In some ways, it was Iowa's most admirable game to date: They jumped out to an 8-1 lead, kept their shots falling at a reasonable pace for most of the night, and hustled for at least 80% of the loose balls. And yet it still wasn't enough, not even at home against a team that may not end up being very good this season.
The final was 70-64, a score that's appropriately close in respects to how the game went. Though the Hokies had a moderate lead for most of the second half, Iowa was in striking distance for most and even led for a short while, at 54-53. That didn't last very long.
Iowa's struggles came in two main areas: first was the usual late-first-half power outage, this one manifested in a glacial 15-2 run by the Hokies that turned a 20-15 Iowa lead into a 30-22 Hokie advantage. The second was more discouraging, just because it was as familiar as it was endemic: the talent just isn't there.
Cully Payne just isn't athletic enough to overcome his total lack of experience on either side of the ball. Anthony Tucker and Devan Bawinkel really can't contribute much on defense. Matt Gatens doesn't make points appear out of nowhere. Jarryd Cole is still just plain frightening on offense. And other newbies like Brennan Cougill and Eric May are still adjusting to the pace of the collegiate game--an adjustment that most major conference teams would let them go through on the bench. No such luxury at Iowa when almost nobody sticks around for their senior season.
And yet, it took the proverbial dagger from Dorenzo Hudson--a roughly 700-foot three pointer as the shot clock expired--late in the game to effectively bury the Hawkeyes. It's not as if the Hokies were sure to lose without the shot--it turned a 4-point game into a 7-point game with under 90 seconds to play--but it made the comeback impossible. The fish was probably staying in the barrel; it was just a matter of shooting it.
So it goes, so it goes. At the very least, Iowa played well enough to beat about 10 of the teams on its schedule this season. Small consolation, to be sure, but we were pondering the implications of a 5-win season just last week. That's probably not going to happen. Oh, 4-14 in the BXI (or worse) might happen and would definitely suck, but I'd take 4-14 over 0-18, y'know?
All that said, this team's young enough that they really ought to show significant improvement over the course of the season. If it's not evident that they're learning anything about The System... then what's the point?