They say "a win's a win." They are the people who think the RPI is the height of statistical analysis and they are wrong.
Then again, they also comprise the selection committee, so despite a thoroughly unimpressive slog tonight, Iowa's 1-0 and one step closer to an NCAA tourney berth.
At any rate, Iowa got the win that is a win, pulling out a 67-57 victory over visiting Nebraska that really had no business being that close. Iowa held a 55-35 lead midway through the second half and looked like it could coast to a win. And coast the Hawkeyes did! You probably already know how that worked out.
Nebraska responded with a 20-5 spree to cut the lead to 5 points with 1:49 to play, and it was fair to wonder if this was yet another fatal tightening of the b-hole for an Iowa team that, if we're being honest, has had a problem with that multiple times already this season.
Ah, but Iowa regained its composure down the stretch, hit its free throws at a more acceptable rate (7/10, which... hell, it was better) and provided enough defensive pressure that Nebraska never seriously threatened to retake the lead. Ten-point win, and Iowa's 1-0 in the conference or the first time since [REDACTED] was still gainfully employed in Iowa City.
John Sears had a rundown of all the craptastic aspects of this performance:
17 missed FT's, 14 Turnovers, 1/6 from three, Hawks win by 10. Ugly, ugly W for Iowa. They don't win this game a year ago.— John Sears (@johnsears) January 1, 2014
And yes, the opponent matters, but he's absolutely right: in years past, when Iowa puts a performance like that on the court, it ends with an L. Performancel.
Speaking of years past, though, it took a vintage (and by vintage I mean a year ago) Iowa defensive performance to keep Nebraska far away enough to still pull out the victory. The Huskers managed all of 15 points from the 9:06 mark of the first half to 7:45 left in the second half—that's 15 points in 21:21 of game time—and from there the task of coming back was too tall.
There aren't too many players you can hail in this one, or just in general when your team gives up 14 turnovers and shoots 56% from the free throw line. But Aaron White was as active as ever, taking control of the game in transition and cleaning up the glass to the tune of 13 points, 7 boards, 2 steals and 2 assists. Only one turnover to boot, so we'll take it.
On the other end of the spectrum, Anthony Clemmons struggled with the Nebraska pressure and was present for most of the Huskers' comeback. It was confusing to see him on the court so often in the second half instead of Gesell, who is rounding into a smarter player and better offensive engine for the team as a whole. It's at the point where Gesell has to play more than 19 minutes a game. Has to.
The officiating wasn't great, and it was more often not great to the benefit of Nebraska than for Iowa. That's not to say they were crooked—Hanlon's Razor is always in effect with referees—but anything that undermines the quality and competitiveness of a game is frustrating, and seeing Jarrod Uthoff called for a travel after being pushed over (and his feet not even moving anyway) completely qualifies in that regard. It didn't matter in the bigger scheme, obviously, but when the best thing you can say about the officiating is "it didn't matter in the bigger scheme," the zebras had a bad day.
But hey. 12-2. 1-0. Onward and upward. And a happy new year to each and every one of you, who help contribute to a community that enriches our lives at BHGP. We thank you and hope you have a wonderful new year along with your family and other loved ones.