Against an upper-level foe, Iowa probably would have struggled tonight. Fortunately, the Hawkeyes were facing Nebraska.
Mike Gesell racked up a double-double as he burned his home-state Cornhuskers, and the Iowa Hawkeyes prevailed 77-66 in a virtually drama-free home-court victory. Nebraska scored the first 10 points of the game, but Iowa controlled the game thereafter, and Nebraska got no closer than eight points in the second half.
Jarrod Uthoff is likely your man of the match with another outstanding effort; he led all scorers with 25 points and added eight rebounds and four blocks, but Gesell's 21 points, 10 assists and four rebounds look mighty nice, too. Gesell also hit 11 of 13 free throws, so perhaps we can be done with the Shell-A-Gesell strategy; it's ugly basketball, and if it's not in the opponents' best interests we can kiss it goodbye.
The crowd wasn't much into this one, and you can't blame them; mid-week 8 pm tipoffs against lower-tier competition are tough to get amped about, especially if you weren't there early enough to get an Adam Woodbury bobblehead. And Iowa's listless start to the game seemed to mirror that lack of energy; Fran McCaffrey had to sub in Nicholas Baer and Dom Uhl early in the game, and the two responded by helping fuel a quick rally to get Iowa back into the game.
By the middle of the game, Iowa was mentally into the game, to the point where Gesell was tossing half-court lobs to Uthoff and Peter Jok was diving into the stands for loose basketballs:
But perhaps the most emblematic stretch of basketball came in the last five minutes of the first half, with Nebraska mired in a scoreless trudge that would take them to the break, while Iowa responded by scoring all of two points in the last 4:55. It obviously didn't end up hurting the Hawkeyes, but again: if they're facing an upper-level Big Ten foe, that's a recipe for disaster. Luckily it's just Nebraska.
Anthony Clemmons started the game after leaving Purdue's game with a bruised everything after getting run over by A.J. Hammons, but Clemmons only played 17 minutes and clearly wasn't 100%. He should be good enough with the long layover, though, and Iowa didn't exactly struggle much with only Gesell running the point.
Last thing about the Cornhuskers: they certainly didn't fold, and they gave Iowa 40 minutes of effort, right down to fouling while down 12 points with 26 seconds to go (eliciting boos from the crowd who, to be fair, had every right to be ready to just go home). And yet Iowa, without playing particularly inspired basketball, still won by double digits. That's a function of a decisive talent advantage, and that'll suit Iowa well going forward. It's also brutal for Tim Miles, who looks like he's trotting a mid-major onto the court for every game, and the record reflects it. The novelty has long worn off for Miles, and it's hard to imagine the patience for this experiment in Lincoln lasting much longer.
But we digress. Iowa is 3-0 in the conference, gets nine days to prepare for its trip to the Breslin Center for a rematch at MSU, and the players and fans can all now get that sleep they (and we) spent most of the game trying to stave off. No bad news here, not tonight.