The Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 0-1) took Saturday’s result and flipped it on its head in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad loss to the Eastern Illinois Panthers (4-9, 0-0), 92-82. It supplants, off the top of my head, losses to Omaha (2016-17) and Campbell (2011-12) as the worst in the Fran McCaffery era and probably one of the worst all time.
There are no excuses for it, as the Hawkeyes raced to an 18-4 lead despite not having Connor McCaffery & Kris Murray. I guess they thought EIU would play the part and roll over after it. Instead, they came out of a timeout making six straight shots and cut the lead to 25-17.
The Panthers continued cutting into Iowa’s lead as they settled for three pointers and let EIU get just about wherever they wanted to on the court. They missed seven straight shots before a Filip Rebraca tip-in just before half close had Iowa leading 45-37.
The body language continued to be gnarly out of half with Eastern Illinois quickly closing it to a one point game as the 12 turnovers which stymied their offense in the first half dried up in the second and they missed only eight shots in the frame. They missed so few because they had 11 (!!!) dunks on the game as Iowa let their 11 turnovers turn into 14 points and the Panthers had 26 fastbreak points.
It was around that time they used another six-straight-basket run to extend their lead to 68-59 and while there were over 8 minutes left, it felt like the hope that Iowa could pull it out was depleted. They went six minutes with just one field goal (free throw shooting, albeit errant, kept them afloat relatively speaking) entered the under-4 timeout down 80-67.
They found some points but could never find the defense as EIU matched them point for point down to seal the game, including another stretch of five shots where they couldn’t miss.
In a non-conference schedule where Iowa figured to take some lumps, the one which defines them is this one. A loss to a wretched basketball team because they played even more wretched. There was nothing good about it and they learned the hard way they can’t just show up and expect a win.
With an improving Nebraska squad up next for Iowa, there’s opportunity to prove this one was a blip. But it’s a huge blip and one which might torpedo their chances at the NCAA Tournament without some stellar results in conference play.