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Strong defense and fire Nicholas Baer propel Iowa from first half deficit

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Iowa Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

The night started off weird enough, as many struggled to get the stream to work while Illinois/Notre Dame finished up and kept Hawkeye fans in the dark. It was certainly weird enough as there was inconsistent-at-best officiating throughout the night. And it ended even weirder after two missed Tyler Cook free throws and two missed Pitt last second shots for the Iowa Hawkeyes (6-0) securing the victory, 69-68 over the Pittsburgh Panthers (6-1).

An old enemy reared it’s ugly head in the first half, however, as the Panthers seemingly couldn’t miss and they raced to a 46-40 lead. Behind stellar guard play, Xavier Johnson and Trey McGowens scored 22 of their points on 8/13 shooting. They were constantly in the lane and all of the offseason talk and early season success seemed to wash away. No one could protect the rim, as the Panthers had 26 points in the paint.

Turnovers exacerbated the issue. Though Iowa only had seven in the half (14 in the game), the Panthers scored 11 points off of them in the first half and 20 overall.

Thankfully, Iowa found their stroke from deep to keep them in it. Despite shooting only 42.3% in the period, eight of the Hawkeyes’ 11 baskets came from three, paced by Jordan Bohannon and Joe Wieskamp, who each had three. In a topsy-turvy box score, the two lead Iowa in scoring at 11, while the men inside - Tyler Cook and Luka Garza - combined for only seven points, as the Panthers used their length to limit opportunities for them.

Immediately in the second half, the defensive light flipped on. The 22 points Iowa held Pittsburgh to, resulted in a game-ending .986 points per possession. This grows Iowa’s streak to six. The Hawks forced 12 in the half and held Pittsburgh to just 29.2% scoring in the frame. Bohannon finished with six steals, which seems like a typo but isn’t.

Perhaps burying the lede - his name is in the headline after all - was a throwback performance from Nicholas Baer. The senior scored 14 of his 16 points during the second half as Iowa clawed their way back into the lead without ever being able to extend it beyond three. At one point, he had 11 straight points, including two straight threes. Of course he did other Baer stuff - five rebounds and a steal - but he also found himself at the line seven times, highlighting his aggression in getting Iowa back into the game.

Questions remain for this squad: they couldn’t really get an easy look for Cook or Garza, the clogged toilet offense under 30 seconds, the new lack of depth with Cordell Pemsl out for the season, the defense which put Iowa there in the first place. But six wins and zero losses is still six wins and zero losses as they head into conference play.

While this weekend isn’t what Hawkeye fans hoped it would be - enjoying a matchup with Wisconsin with thousands of fellow fans in Indianapolis - it is certainly more than what Hawkeye basketball fans even dreamed of to start the season.

Let’s hope they keep it going.


  • The officiating was...something. I mean, Jordan freaking Bohannon was called for two charges, Tyler Cook was left on the ground holding his head for a solid 15 seconds, there was a double foul, officials had to make sure nothing escalated after Cook was fouled with 10 seconds to go on an offensive rebound, they went to the monitor countless times, and that’s all I can think of. There were certainly missed calls both ways but it was a very poor performance from the men in stripes.
  • This was the first time Iowa truly needed Joe Wieskamp to perform and did he ever. He notched his first double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, was active on defense (two blocks and a steal), and hunted his shot throughout the night without being a detriment - only one turnover. Given the nature of this team, he’ll be able to continue growing in his role but it was impressive to see him help Iowa keep pace before second half adjustments settled the defense.
  • It was not Tyler Cook’s best night but it was far from his worst. Though he was only able to take five shots, he found ways to be aggressive with 12 free throw attempts, three assists, and zero turnovers. He also drew a charge during the time Iowa was clamping down on defense and was the leader you hope your best player can be.
  • It was a pretty wild box score to see Iowa pull out a victory: 36.5% shooting overall, 38.7% from three, 67.9% from the line. Thankfully they were there enough times (19/28 vs. Pitt’s 8/13) to swing the balance. Ultimately, it’s probably the reason the game felt so lopsided from the officials: it’s not like Iowa wasn’t getting calls but their pedal to the metal made it feel like the refs were swallowing their whistles.
  • Fran matched Jeff Capel’s smaller rotation for the bulk of the night with two of Cook, Garza, and Ryan Kriener sharing the floor for about 16 minutes by my log. To Pitt’s credit, his team was stellar in executing Capel’s game plan to keep the ball out of Cook and Garza’s hands despite the size disadvantage. It was nice to see Iowa play left-handed in this way but led to some pretty ugly droughts throughout the second half. But it also allowed them to stick with smaller guys on defense. Whatever it takes.
  • There was some Dolph stuff. It’ll probably pass over.

What’d you think?