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Schwartz: Did We Just Witness Something Important?

January 23, 2020

Written by David Schwartz

Hawkeye Nation

Maybe it meant something big-picture, or maybe it didn’t. Maybe it was one of those things in the moment that seemed bigger than it really was.

CJ Fredrick’s driving layup with 2:14 remaining Wednesday broke a streak of nearly 11 minutes without a Hawkeye basket. Rutgers, ranked for the first time in more than four decades and looking to bet Iowa yet again at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, had clawed its way back from a 10-point deficit to take the lead.

Fran McCaffery raged in full meltdown mode. He couldn’t get his team to calm down. It’s hard to do when you can’t get yourself to calm down, his face reddening, spit flying, assistant coaches swarming. The Hawkeyes crumbling, it had all the markings of a classic, inexplicable yet so predictable mid-Big Ten season collapse.

And then …

And then, it didn’t happen. Fredrick’s layup acted like a plug in a leaking dike. The Hawkeyes went back up. Joe Toussaint, playing his best game as a Hawkeye, grabbed a big rebound. Joe Wieskamp sunk a three-pointer, and from there the teams traded free throws as the Hawkeyes earned an 85-80 victory.

Credit to the Hawkeye players, and credit to McCaffery for holding himself together(-ish). A game that in previous years would have slipped away instead became their 15th victory of the season, fourth in a row, and fifth in Big Ten play as they now sit tied for third with in the conference with Maryland, the Scarlet Knights, and Wisconsin, whom the Hawkeyes play Monday in their next game.

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Which brings us back to Fredrick’s moment – the moment when the Hawkeyes collectively said, “Nope. Not happening. Not again.”

They’re still in the midst of one of their most important stretches of the season, a mostly home series of games against some of the Big Ten’s best. We won’t know for sure for another couple of weeks – heck, perhaps another month or two – whether Fredrick’s shot marked a turning point or we’re just a little excited because we’re still in the moment of Iowa’s victory.

That happens sometimes in sports: the emotion flows and what seems like a pinnacle moment is really just something contained. A snapshot.

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Still, that cutting layup should be filed away in a spot we easily can access in early February, late February, mid-March when – fingers crossed – the Hawkeyes, seeded fourth(-ish) in the NCAA Tournament, showcase an offense that gives heartburn to opposing coaches as they draw up their defensive game plans.

And we haven’t even mentioned Luka Garza, who filled the box score again with 28 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks in the night’s only college basketball game between two nationally ranked teams. The spotlight was Iowa’s, and they seized it. Big games from Garza, Toussaint, Wieskamp, and Fredrick.

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A competitive first half. A sizeable lead. A near collapse. An unwillingness to succumb to ghosts of Hawkeye basketball past.

An important win over a ranked conference opponent. And maybe, just maybe, we’re starting to see something different out of this program.

* Talk with David Schwartz on Twitter @daveschwartz.

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