In the end, the carriage turned back into a pumpkin.
Iowa's three-week run through the NIT ended with a resounding thud Thursday night, as the Hawkeyes were soundly defeated 74-54 by the Baylor Bears in the tournament championship game. The Hawkeyes shot just 26.5 percent from the field on the evening (20.8% from behind the arc), and were harassed by Baylor's shot blockers throughout the game. Despite struggling from the field in the first half, Iowa managed to reduce the Baylor halftime margin to five, and an early second half run got the Hawkeyes within one. Baylor utterly dominated from that point, though, going on a 32-12 run to build an insurmountable advantage.
Baylor's seven-foot freshman center Isaiah Austin was dominant, scoring 15 points, nine rebounds, and five blocked shots. Cory Jefferson added 23 points and seven rebounds. Senior guard Pierre Jackson recovered from a sluggish first half to score 17 points and dish out ten assists.
Mike Gesell came off the bench to lead Iowa with 13 points. Aaron White scored 12 and grabbed seven boards, and Roy Devyn Marble added six points on 3/12 shooting. Matchup problems and an inability to combat Baylor's speed and versatility doomed the Hawkeyes' chances early. Baylor had looked like a nightmare matchup for Iowa: Baylor's frontcourt could match Iowa's height and length, and the Bears' guards were able to generate turnovers from the Iowa backcourt and penetrate Iowa's defense at will. The Hawkeyes had no answer on either side of the ball, and when their shooting went south, their fate was sealed.
Iowa's season comes to an end at 25-13, the highest win total for an Iowa team since 1986-87. The Hawkeyes finished 9-9 in the nation's best conference and advanced to their first NIT final in program history. Iowa loses guard Eric May to graduation, but returns all other players and adds forwards Jared Uthoff and Peter Jok. The Hawkeyes should be a preseason top 25 selection and sleeper choice to win the Big Ten. Even on a night where nothing went right, the future remains bright. We can flush this game -- along with Marble's DAY-GLO sneakers -- and look forward to November.