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Rewatching Iowa’s Elite 8 Matchup with UNLV

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Why am I doing this to myself?

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When I dove into the NCAA Archives, I wanted to find some full game footage of Kenyon Murray after his kids committed to the Iowa Hawkeyes over the weekend. “Let’s run it back! That’ll be fun!”

Well, I couldn’t find any of the full game footage of the four games he played in the tournament but I did find something I’ve been putting off watching my whole life. It was more or less my entry into Hawkeye disappointment before experiencing it firsthand.

Setting the stage, the 1987 team undoubtedly has to be the best Iowa has ever constructed. Recruited by George Raveling, Tom Davis had them playing insane basketball when they were never out of the AP Top 10. They reached #1 after back-to-back top 10 wins against Illinois and Purdue, both on the road. They beat the #3 Indiana Hoosiers the following game at Carver-Hawkeye. They were 17-0.

These guys were insane (seven guys have little NBA icons next to their names) and finished the regular season 27-4, assuming a win against a non-D1 opponent. They were gifted a two-seed in Tucson and squeaked by UTEP after blowing out Santa Clara. Yeah, Iowa got screwed with the draw. But they got through OU in overtime in Seattle which set up a 1-2 matchup with UNLV.

And we’re off!

0:09: I’ve never seen a quicker midrange jumper followed by Iowa yielding an offensive rebounder to the shooter!

0:55: What flair Roy Marble shows on that assist!

1:09: And more flair from Gerry Wright! And BJ Armstrong! This is nuts!

1:17: Inject NBA Jam’s Brad Lohaus’s shiner right into my veins:

NCAA | YouTube

1:35: I guess the corner three is just something Iowa defenses give up. (Also RIP sound)

2:53: Sound is back as is Iowa’s porous defense.

3:50: BOX OUT!!!

4:05: A lot more Brad Lohaus than I expected.

4:35: Iowa forcing a turnover with three guys in the front court is the defensive intensity I live for.

5:24: I believe that’s the first Jerry Tarkenian shot. Dude had a look, that’s for sure.

6:20: Unclear what the whistle was for but Lohaus is sent to the bench. Hopefully his eye gets sorted out.

7:45: Jeff Moe has some downright villainous hair. Beautiful

8:57: First timeout with 15:46 to go in the first half has me thinking all kinds of things. Mainly, how did we live without a constant understanding of time and score? I’m totally confused watching this game! Legitimately no clue Iowa was up 18-9.

9:25: “When are they gonna make throwback jerseys with shorts that short?” my wife asks. “I know, they’re amazing.” She’s disappointed I heard her ask the question and not something earlier about the game she is playing (Assassin’s Creed).

10:00: There aren’t enough five-second violations in today’s game IMO.

10:45: BOX OUT MOE

11:19: 5 team fouls. 9-point lead evaporated. Not enjoying this anymore.

13:20: Armstrong is so quick and nifty. Only reason he went to Iowa is because Scott Skiles is an asshole. Thanks, Scott.

15:00: 4 turnovers. Feels like Marble has had a rough start since that nifty assist.

15:51: THERE IT IS ROY!

18:51: Hit a bit of a lull but would like take the time to say that NCAA tournament courts should return to the uniqueness of these older courts. They’re too similar now.

19:40: BJ Armstrong really hasn’t aged a day the last 32 years. But please make some free throws.

20:45: PLEASE MAKE SOME FREE THROWS

20:57: Thank you.

21:54: Charge. UNLV three. I’m told Iowa is now losing. This is upsetting.

22:22 Jeff Moe steal negated. Still upset!

22:40: UNLV 4/9 from three. How has this not changed in 32 years?

24:37: This lane configuration is chaos and it should return:

NCAA | YouTube

25:20: Michael Reaves layup. Michael Reaves steal. Kevin Gamble and-one. 36-31.

26:12: Horrible charge call. Where’s the circle?!?!?

26:50: Someone has a third foul now. No clue how much time is left in the half. Please make a free throw.

28:46: I’m going to be sick to my stomach when I fact check these FT numbers.

29:35: WHAT AN OOP TO MARBLE. This team has electric athleticism.

NCAA | YouTube

31:40: Legitimately insane Tark just ... kinda did this:

NCAA | YouTube

33:12: ADVANCED ANALYTICS

NCAA | YouTube

“Quickest game ever?” the broadcaster asks. “I can’t imagine any game quicker.”

34:14: “Iowa is undefeated when leading at halftime.” Ugh. And they’re just dominating, too. Tark calls a timeout after another steal and Hawkeye layup. 51-33

36:40: Totally unforced error after trading baskets but Iowa’s shooting 77%. Here’s that Moe hair.

NCAA | YouTube

39:10: UNLV has 3 guys with 3 fouls. Iowa has none. Lob didn’t work a second time. Now UNLV is at the line closing the game before half, 54-40.

40:40: Commenter remarks on Iowa’s poise before a nice basket from the paint. A reminder that no one is making me watch this.

43:30: “Given the method of their play, 16 points is not too difficult to overcome.” 58-42. Quickly flips to half but Iowa has like 20+ free throw attempts already. 23-0 when leading at half also flashes on the screen.

44:10: Iowa has a quick turnover to start the half. Follows up UNLV’s first basket with another turnover. I’m officially sick.

45:50: Armstrong eases the tension with a pull-up jumper and then draws a charge. It’s impossible to believe that the charge is actually less fun to call for refs than in the 80s. Dude pointed right at the offending player!

49:30: I know a call is bad when I exclaim: “What a horrible call!” during a replay of a game of which I know the outcome. UNLV has it at 64-49 now.

50:45: A phantom travel. Corner three for UNLV. Quick offensive foul. Come on!

52:05: A Banks three has it to 9. Marble can’t get the layup to go and Lorenzen is called for a foul. They’re up to 4 team fouls. The Kingdome is going crazy. Somehow Iowa has 18 less three-point attempts than UNLV. Moe is called for a foul on a jumper. Everything than can go wrong is going wrong.

54:55: UNLV is up to two guys with four fouls.

56:45: Feels like Marble has missed five straight shots. UNLV 3. Quick shot leads to a Runnin’ Rebel break but Iowa holds on.

57:45: “I don’t think she’s from Iowa.”

NCAA | YouTube

57:55: Lob doesn’t work for a second straight time. Quick three gets it down to 1. Marble can’t get the layup to go after the timeout. Now UNLV has the lead after a corner three, 68-66. Marble can’t get ANOTHER basket to go.

1:00:30: Just realized the shot clock was 45 seconds!!!

1:01:40: Literally the dumbest turnover followed by one of the dumbest fouls I’ve ever seen. Commentator saying Iowa needs some leadership on the court before another UNLV 3. Armstrong gets a layup, 71-68. Hawks can’t secure a defensive rebound now. 73-68 and Dr. Tom calls a timeout. Iowa is shooting just 29% in the half. Empty possession.

1:05:00: Missed UNLV free throw. Offensive board. Hand on hip offense before they quickly transition into a post up. Marble cannot buy a basket on the other side but is fouled and makes both free throws. 76-70, UNLV.

1:08:30: Turnover UNLV. Foul on the other side but Iowa’s not in the bonus yet. Gamble still gets a layup. 78-74. He gets the board on the other side. Marble to the line! He makes 1/2.

1:11:30: UNLV drains some clock and gets a bucket. They’re quickly called for a foul. Tons of guys with four. Iowa goes 1/2 AGAIN. Quick UNLV bucket: 82-76.

1:13:20: Stagnant offensive possession. Uninspired Armstrong 3. Iowa gets a block and a board before a BJ layup. Down 4.

1:14:50: Steal by Lohaus! Then the same on Marble. :(

1:16:15: Zone defense freaked Iowa out. Armstrong and Gamble pass back and forth before Gamble drains it! Hawks down 1! And then a 10-second call! WITH 0:22, COULD THEY REALLY DO IT

1:17:20: Armstrong takes the inbound from Lohaus. He swings it to Gamble who throws it to a wide open Lohaus behind UNLV’s defense. The ball goes off the backboard in tragicomic fashion.

1:18:00: Marble gets the foul with 10 seconds on the clock. Gary Graham is a solid free throw shooter and makes the first. Makes the second. Iowa needs a three.

1:19:10: Ball goes out of bounds with 6 seconds left trying to get it to Jeff Moe. Iowa retains possession.

1:19:20: Without a timeout, Iowa gets it to Armstrong. He passes it to Gamble whose desperation heave goes off the rim. :(((


So what did I really learn through that exercise? I learned that Iowa probably never had a basketball team play at a higher level than they did in the first half. And while they missed shots in the second half, the real crime was losing the assertiveness they showed in the first. After over 20 free throws in the first half, they finished with just 29. (and made only 19 of them)

Stylistically, I have to say that a lot of what was seen in that game most mirrors what Fran’s teams try to do of coaches since Tom Davis. None has had the talent of that ‘87 team - arguably none in Iowa history ever has with they typically free-flowing offense.

I didn’t think that Iowa would have so many last minute chances to take that one home, but they did and couldn’t get a single one. Really such a lost opportunity but UNLV was a great program at that time and they cut through the double-digit lead like butter.

As for Iowa basketball, it really says all we need to know that Iowa could never get back to this spot, even with the sophomore tandem of Armstrong and Marble intact for the next couple years.

I’m at a bit of a loss for words...what an opportunity that was.