So, wow. Iowa wins 77-75. Jarrod Uthoff with the game-winner with 6.1 (or 3.5) seconds, and the Hawkeyes move to 3-1 in conference play... which just so happens to be a tie for first place. Of course it's early. Of course. But that's where they are right now.
It's amazing that Iowa won this game, not only because Iowa game-winners are rarer than mooing steaks—this is literally the first since Cyrus Tate beat KSU in November 2008—but because Minnesota went on an unholy tear in the second half, scoring on virtually every possession in a 10-minute span and turning a 51-34 Iowa lead into a 70-67 deficit. 36 points in 10 minutes. Yeah. When Joey King hit the open three that gave Minnesota a four-point lead with 3:22 to play, it really, really felt like ballgame for those of us watching.
Fortunately, Jarrod Uthoff did not come up to Minneapolis to bring home an L, and the Hawkeyes' assassin took over down the stretch. Uthoff scored Iowa's last seven points of the game, including an off-balance, contested jumper on the Hawkeyes' last possession that gave Iowa its ultimate lead. Anybody else tries that shot, and Fran backs the team bus over them on the way out of town. Uthoff? He can hit anything. He's stepping into the role of Iowa's go-to guy, and that leadership won the Hawkeyes the game tonight. Give him 22 points on 7-10 shooting, five rebounds, four assists and four blocks, and call him what he is: the best player on the team.
This game really should have gone to overtime, as a DeAndre Mathieu layup at the rim was waved off for being a couple tenths of a second too late (it looked good live, but the officials called it late from the get-go and the replay was conclusive). There's no telling how that OT would have gone, given the rest of the game, but it's obviously better that the Hawkeyes didn't have to find out in the first place. So the team now knows that when it lets Bad Iowa run the show in the second half (seriously, 36 points in 10 minutes is ludicrous) it can still win the game if its players make plays late. That's big. Obviously you want to not give up massive runs in the first place, but to have the mental strength to bounce back and retake control of the ballgame is huge—especially for a team that has such issues with confidence.
Iowa led by 11 at the break, but even so you could tell the game might tilt in Minnesota's favor at any time. The Hawkeyes missed four straight free throws late in the half, and you knew the 61.5%-30% FG shooting differential wouldn't hold up all game long (by the end of the game, the disparity had shrunk to 6.3%). Even so, Iowa opened up the second half with some strong play and pushed the lead to 17 before Minnesota's death machine kicked into gear. So at that point it sure felt like Iowa might just be able to coast. Yeah, no.
So the rest of January will probably tell where Iowa shakes out in the Big Ten race. OSU comes to town this weekend, then trips to Wisconsin and Purdue, and then Wisconsin comes to Carver for the return match on the 31st. Iowa might go 0-4. It's plausible. Going 1-3 would feel about right. Anything better than that, though, and it's time to start thinking very positively about this team—especially because there's no "sure loss" on the schedule come February or March. This is it.