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A look back at the most iconic Iowa Basketball victories over the past 35 years

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Conference Tournament-Iowa vs Indiana Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Watching this year’s NCAA Tournament, I couldn’t help thinking about Iowa Basketball. The future seems bright and surely there are games ahead of us that will eventually usurp some of the contests I want to talk about. Taking a look back now gets me very excited for the future of this program. Knowing that decades into the future someone will be revisiting games yet to be played, players long since graduated and clutch shots yet to be taken is fascinating to me. The ability to transcend time is powerful in sports. To re-live a memory you didn’t know you had or recall a moment you may have shared with a loved one who’s no longer with us are among many reasons to remember some of our favorite Hawkeye moments.

I know I won’t get them all or I’ll leave out some that deserved mentioning. That’s ok! Sparking discussion is what it’s about because that “Oh Yeah, I do remember that!” moment is pretty cool too.

So let’s get started on a short trip down memory lane..

January 14th, 1987. #2 Iowa at #8 Illinois. 91-88 in OT.

91-88 in OT seems like a fairly unremarkable result until you remember Iowa was down 22 points with 15 minutes left in the second half. Twenty-Two point deficits usually earn you a well-deserved “L” especially while playing the No. 8 team in their house. Iowa’s up-tempo style never seemed to find any traction and the full court press was easily dissected by Tyler Wysinger and seemingly everyone else in a white uniform.

That is until it wasn’t. The press started to create turnovers and Marble, Gamble and Lohaus took full advantage. Illinois seemed to wither a bit and Iowa kept playing like its hair was on fire. Bodies were hitting the deck on virtually every possession. When coaches say never give up this game epitomizes that sentiment. Seriously, I’ll let you borrow my VHS tape so you can see what I mean but you don’t have a VCR so never mind.

With 1:39 left in OT things looked bleak after a foul sent Illinois to the line but a 1-and-1 miss gave the ball back to Iowa. The Hawkeyes had over 50 rebounds in the game and made more free throws than Illinois attempted. The teams traded buckets the last minute and with 23 left on the clock BJ Armstrong nails a jumper to give Iowa the lead for good.

January 7th, 1989. #9 Iowa at #6 North Carolina, 98-97.

The anticipation and intensity of this game were off the charts. Both teams were very talented; UNC with Rick Fox and J.R. Reid and Iowa with Marble, Horton and Armstrong. Iowa was going into a hostile environment against a legendary coach who’s name was on the arena.

You just can’t discuss this game without talking about the free-throw situation. You know what I’m talking about. Fifteen seconds left and Ed Horton misses the front end of a 1-and-1. Marble gets the rebound, misses the put back, Horton rebounds (Iowa did very well on the glass this game) goes up and misses the shot. A foul is called. Marble then steps to the line and everyone gets all crazy because the perception was that Horton should have been shooting. Marble proceeds to let everyone know that he was shooting the free throws and no further discussion was needed. Fast forward to the 1:27:00 to get to the goodies.

*Editors note: how about the UNC band all suited up? Was that a thing back then?

I don’t think it matters who was shooting the free throws. Horton was 1-4 from the line for the game and the numbers would say the he makes at least one of those if not both. How’s that for a positive spin?

March 20th, 1987. West Regional Semifinal Iowa vs. Oklahoma 93-91.

Aside from trips to the Final Four twice in the 50’s and in 1980, this game was one of the most fun to watch. Kevin Gamble had 26 points on his way into Hawkeye lore.

With one minute left in regulation and Oklahoma up by three with the ball, a shot goes up, misses, and Brad Lohaus grabs his biggest rebound of the game. If Oklahoma gets that board or an easy put-back this game might not even get to overtime. Seconds later, Armstrong knocks down his second shot of the game to that point, a long three to tie it at 85. Billy Tubbs doesn’t call a timeout and Kevin Gamble blocks the game winning shot attempt, setting himself up for more heroics in OT.

In overtime, Iowa jumps out to 90-85 lead but it’s erased thanks to Oklahoma going to a full-court defense. Down 91-90 Iowa runs the clock down and Roy Marble drives the lane for a look that missed, but the ball goes out of bounds and the Hawkeyes get the ball back with 11 seconds to play. Armstrong eventually finds Gamble wide open, feeds him a perfect pass he catches and shoots… Game over.

It wasn’t all bad for the Sooners though. They did get to take 4 timeouts home with them as consolation.

December 8th, 1998. Iowa at #8 Kansas. 85-81.

Let’s start at the 12:50 mark in the second half where Iowa trailed 59-41 and were seemingly trying to figure out what sport they were actually playing. With 30+ Turnovers and the inability to pass, catch, shoot or play defense, you would probably guess Iowa got eviscerated on this night. I remember the announcers were all but begging for the game to be over because they’d run out of adjectives to describe how awful Iowa was playing and boy, they sure did love talking about that home winning streak Kansas was riding, something ridiculous like 62 games over four or five years.

In the end, Kansas was determined not to win this game as if to say, “This is how you play bad basketball, Iowa.” The Jayhawks missed shot after shot and had 20+ turnovers themselves while bricking enough free throws to build a new arena. Iowa finally realized that, indeed, basketball was the game they were playing and scraped, clawed, kicked and low and behold with five minutes left Iowa took the lead for a bit. Down 76-74 with 1:38 to play, Kent McCausland buried a 3 and then again with 2 seconds on the shot clock and less than 35 in the game, McCausland, with virtually no regard for the streak, drains another 3. I’d recommend fast forwarding to the 17:20 mark of the video.

McCausland said afterwards that “This might have been the greatest win in Iowa history,” and hyperbole aside, it’s hard to argue. Honestly it wasn’t a pretty game at all but the result was absolutely beautiful.

That’s the short version. I do know there are some obvious omissions and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the games at MSU and Home vs. Michigan in 1993. Coming back from 17 down (down 15 with under 4 left in the game) at Michigan State and then upending the Chris Webber and Jalen Rose-led Wolverines under the circumstances at the time were remarkable victories that will never be topped. The noise at Carver was deafening. The crowd for the Michigan game was unlike anything I’ve seen or heard before. I think those games are in a different category all to themselves.

So, as this year’s Tournament comes to its conclusion don’t be too mad about Iowa not being involved, just take a look back and realize when they do make it, when they put it all together, there will be some unforgettable moments along the way and those moments and players will be what live on in our hearts and minds for a very long time.