ILLINOIS 66, IOWA 63: GOD HELP US ALL

Matthew Holst

Iowa's Senior Night is spoiled by an Illinois upset, but the real culprits were the Hawkeyes themselves and another game of uninspired play.

Awful. Awful. Awful. The Big Ten is full of blood and spiders, but spiders ought to be stepped on. Iowa didn't do that, and the Illini got the shocking upset, 66-63. Illinois is far and away the worst team Iowa has lost to all year, and of the nine conference losses Iowa has taken this year, this is the most inexcusable.

Jon Ekey cut Iowa's throat out down the stretch, hitting two threes in the last 90 seconds including one off a perfect pick-and-pop in the last second of play for the win.

The loss was appropriate, being that Iowa was shockingly listless for basically the entire game, save a 17-1 run that got the Hawkeyes back into contention in the first half. It shouldn't take a run like that to just get back into contention, of course, but Iowa found itself down 20-6 early thanks to defense that was such in name only. And wouldn't you know it, giving an inferior opponent a 14-point cushion lets that inferior opponent stay within striking distance throughout the game.

Once again: no leadership, no composure, no player who puts the team on his back when it needs it. Sometimes that guy is Roy Devyn Marble, but recently—including tonight—he's flagged as a part of the offense. That this all went down on Senior Night makes me wonder if there's something worse going on with the team. I don't know. I don't have any ideas. But that's not the way Iowa basketball has been played all year, much less on an important night at home against the dumbest team in the league.

It wasn't the right night for Marble to go ice-cold. There's never a good night for it, but with the Hawkeyes collapsing in the second half, their go-to guy wasn't there, and it turned into a go-nowhere offense.

It's amazing what a backslide has occurred with this team. The defensive intensity had fits and starts, but is nowhere near what it was in the first half of the season. Jarrod Uthoff and Gabriel Olaseni, once titans of the bench mob, are bit players at best as of late. Aaron White's aggression has tabled. And Mike Gesell has, surprisingly, turned into the guy opposing defenses can key on to disrupt the Iowa offense—not exactly what you want to see out of a point guard.

If you wanted to pick a man of the match, there's Aaron White, but 12 points and eight boards in 36 minutes is not terribly effective or efficient play, especially from him. But if not White, who? Adam Woodbury was surprisingly active during his time on the court, but he only logged 20 minutes and Olaseni was on the floor more during the second half. Marble disappeared along with this shot late. So I guess it's White?

Iowa's still making the NCAA tournament, to be clear, but this is a horrendous stretch of basketball. And that it's all coming in close games—Iowa is now 2-8 in single-digit games in B1G play, and 5-10 overall—portends extremely poorly for the postseason, where easy wins are now no longer to be found.

So, let's hear it. Keep it civil, it's just sports. Ugh.

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