The Iowa Hawkeyes lived — and almost died — by the 3-pointer in a blow-out turned back-and-forth matchup against the North Carolina Tar Heels that ended in a 93-80 win in Carver-Hawkeye Arena in this year’s Big Ten/ACC Challenge matchup.
Huge shots all night long from Jordan Bohannon, C.J. Frederick and Joe Wieskamp, who had 24, 21 and 19 points respectively, were crucial for Iowa’s success, as Luka Garza was forced into a quiet first half, which resulted in him finishing the night with 16 points, 14 rebounds and 2 assists after a night where he found himself constantly doubled underneath the basket.
The team as a whole finished the night shooting 17-40 — 42% — from deep and only 44% shooting from 2 on 34-76 shots. But let’s not focus on that. The 17 made 3’s was only 2 away from the school record in a single game.
Iowa jumped out to an 11-2 lead from the hands of Frederick and Wieskamp’s hot shooting from beyond the arc, as Luka Garza found himself constantly doubled under the basket, which created wide open looks from deep that the Hawkeyes were happy to oblige.
It seemed obvious that North Carolina would double Garza, but Iowa opening up the game 5-7 from deep as a result was anything but. Quickly, the Hawks had a 25-9 lead with just under 13 minutes left in the half, and it was a good thing, too, as Garza struggled to score and get his feet set under the basket for good looks. In fact, the whole team struggled from 2 point lan.
The Hawks seemed to be catching every early break possible and let’s be honest, it was extremely exciting, if not extremely strange. We’re Iowa fans here. Nothing good comes without some sort of horrible consequence, right? Surely, the next 3-pointer would be the last, bringing on a horrible cold spell that took the game from a blowout win to a close loss?
The Tar Heels were inevitably able to chip down at Iowa’s lead as the torrid scoring 3-point shooting died down and Garza struggled. UNC managed to get the first half deficit down to as little as nine, but a couple late threes, including a clutch 3 at to end the half from Frederick, took the Hawks into the half with a 43-31 lead.
The second half did not start as smoothly for Iowa. UNC came out with renewed vigor, going on an 8-3 run on dunks and scoring off turnovers, cutting the lead down to 7 and forcing an early Iowa timeout.
Quickly, the Tar Heels got the lead down to as little as 3, and it seemed like the wheels were coming off the Hawkeye wagon, as the momentum had completely shifted. The other shoe had finally dropped, and five minutes had barely passed in the half.
A blessing came to the Hawkeyes, however, when Day’Ron Sharpe was called for his 4th foul with 14 minutes left in the game after shoving Garza, and Bohannon responded immediately with an exclamation-point 3-pointer.
From there, Garza finally came alive, going on an 10-0 run of his own that resulted in multiple chest bumps and flexes in celebration. And yet, the Tar Heels wouldn’t go away, and quickly, it became a 1-point game, before North Carolina took a 68-67 lead.
But every time, Iowa responded — including the return of hot three-point shooting, a reverse layup from Joe Toussaint and big put-back and-1 from freshman Keegan Murray, and just like that, Iowa’s double-digit lead was back on the heels (heh) of a 14-0 run, and it was pretty much over from there.
So what do we take away from this?
Well, this team is capable of scoring from deep in droves. Iowa was the more talented team on the floor tonight, and it showed. There was some real resiliency involved in the middle of the second half. You could tell from the Garza fist pumps as he pivoted his way to and-1s and out of his slump. Frederick and Jack Nunge are for real as well. Frederick proved himself on both ends of the floor, Nunge in particular still needs more playing time but the talent and versatility is clearly there, and clearly blossoming.
For a second there, I was worried about what al oss like this might mean. Instead, we have a solid win achieved in solid fashion, that showed the resilience and versatility of the team. When’s the last time you saw an Iowa team take — and make — this many 3’s?
This was fun. Let’s do it again next week against Gonzaga?