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Hawks Fight, But Fall to Texas

November 23, 2009

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For 20 minutes, the Iowa Mens Basketball team played even basketball with the 3rd ranked Texas Longhorns.

Sure, it took a 70-foot shot by Cully Payne at the halftime buzzer to tie it at 38-all, but still, Iowa used a 27-13 run at the end of the first half to make it even up.

The Hawks even scored the first points of the second half, a three-pointer that gave them a 41-38 lead.

The bad news is that is when Texas realized it had a decicive size advantage on the inside and went to it.

The result was an 85-60 final score, which is a 25-point loss. While that is the exact margin I thought the game would be decided by, the Hawkeyes put forth a very respectable effort.

Yeah, that’s not going to end in a Big Ten championship of any kind, but this season was never going to be about that. This is another year where the fans need to see hope for the future. It’s tough writing that in year three of the Lickliter era, as I recall writing it in year’s one and two. But defections have hammered this program, which can happen when any program makes a coaching change. Add Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson to this roster, and this is an Iowa team that would have won at least 15 games, possibly more, and would have been in position for an NCAA tournament bid next year.

But those two are gone, and the reality is that this basketball team is going to have more than a few halves where they are outscored by double digits. Let’s hope it’s not too many more 47-22 halves, which was the case in the second half tonight. Texas scored nearly 30 points in the paint in the second half after shooting more three’s than two’s in the first half.

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Their point of emphasis was to feed Dexter Pittman in the paint and he scored the majority of his 15 points after halftime.

The Longhorns are simply enormous all over the court and they are long and angular. They are definitely one of the ten best teams in the nation and I underestimated them a bit. Seeing is believing, however, and their ability to extend an opponent will pay huge dividends this year.

Iowa is going to see a lot of that this season, because they lack players that can beat you off the dribble. Freshman Eric May seems to be the best at this, but when he gets to the basket against big bodies, finishing is going to be a difficult task.

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Iowa was led in scoring by Brennan Cougill and Matt Gatens who had 11 apiece. Jarryd Cole scored nine as did Devan Balwinkel, Anthony Tucker eight and Cully Payne also scored eight. Payne had six assists to four turnovers, which wasn’t bad against fierce backcourt pressure.

The tale of the season will be Iowa’s three point shooting. On this night, they were 10 of 37, which is 27%. This team is going to have to be near 40% to win games, and they were not there tonight. That being said, some nights that won’t be enough, because if they would have hit 40% of their three’s against Texas, they would have lost by 10 points.

Iowa won’t play against Texas again this year, but they will face Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Michigan, Illinois and Minnesota a few times, and each of those clubs are legit Top 30 teams, or better.

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On this night, Iowa showed it could play with a much better team for roughly 25 minutes. It’s the other 15 that will tell the tale all season long.

NOTES: Iowa played the game without Aaron Fuller, who suffered an ankle injury on Friday night…Iowa fans were in the house on Monday night, as the ‘Let’s Go Hawks’ and ‘I-O-W-A’ chants were ringing around the mostly empty Sprint Center…Texas outrebounded Iowa 40-31…Texas committed 16 turnovers to Iowa’s 15…Tucker and Gatens were a combined 8 of 30 from the floor, with Tucker 2-11 from three…Iowa outshot Texas 63 to 54…

Iowa will play Wichita State at 6:45pm on Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

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