AMES, Ia. – Jarrod Uthoff thought his final 3-pointer would fall.
The desperate shot before the final buzzer and inevitable Cyclone court-storm might have gone down in the first half Thursday night, when the Iowa senior was channeling Lafester Rhodes’ 54-point game in 1987.
Uthoff’s 30 points before intermission turned cold and so too did the Hawkeye offense, orchestrating too little, too late in the 83-82 loss to their fourth-ranked rival.
“For whatever reason, he wasn’t as aggressive,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after the game. “Maybe he sensed they were up in his face a little bit more, that he didn’t have much opportunity to shoot the ball. But he just didn’t feel comfortable.
“(Iowa State) really worked hard on him and got up into him.”
Iowa's coach discusses Jarrod Uthoff, loss at Hilton Coliseum. Chad Leistikow/The Register
The 6-foot-9-inch Cedar Rapids Jefferson product had Hilton Coliseum buzzing for a Hawkeye rally early on, hitting his first eight shots and three 3-pointers.
Uthoff outscored Iowa State (8-0) for most of the first 15 minutes and appeared to be writing his own chapter in Cy-Hawk lore.
“Uthoff was playing out of his mind,” Iowa State first-year coach Steve Prohm said. “And we were trying to get it all back at one time.”
His 30 points on 11-of-13 shooting – with six rebounds, two blocks and a steal – were a career-high by halftime. It paced a 59 percent shooting effort by Iowa (7-3), even though his teammates were just 1-of-10 from behind the arc.
“I was just feeling it,” Uthoff said. “We were moving the ball well, I was getting open looks and knocking them down.”
Iowa's 20-point second half lead slipped away at ISU on Thursday, including a 5-second violation in the final minute. Chris Cuellar/The Register
Then the Cyclones dug in defensively. Uthoff had to pass or take off-balance shots that finally started to bounce out instead of swish in. And the confident home team developed momentum out of a 20-point deficit.
“They went zone some, but we just didn’t move the ball as well as we did in that first half,” Uthoff said. “We just didn’t make as many shots.”
Junior Peter Jok alleviated some offensive struggles in the first few minutes of the second half, finding his stroke in a 5-of-6 start. It offset other slow passing and poor shooting in the Iowa lineup; Uthoff went 1-of-7 and Adam Woodbury 1-of-5 in the final 20 minutes.
“They were going to do whatever they could to shut Jarrod down in the second half,” Jok said. “He just told me, ‘It’s your half, take over.’ I just wanted to step up.”
The Iowa junior guard scored 16 second-half points. Chad Leistikow/The Register
The 14 points Jok banged in were answered by Iowa State’s surging offense. And when Jok fell following an unintentional eye poke while trying to evade Naz Mitrou-Long on a screen – ISU fans boisterously booed video replays – his hot-touch cooled off, too.
The West Des Moines Valley grad put in drops and fixed the contact in his right eye on the sideline, but the offense was never the same. Iowa shot just 36 percent in the second half and was outscored by 15 points.
“We couldn’t get stops,” McCaffery said. “Pete was on fire at the start of the second half and they scored seven of their first 10 possessions.
“Pete didn’t seem to be the same after he fell … I was debating whether to put him back in or take him out, but he was one of our best offensive threats, so I went back to him.”
Iowa made one basket in a 6:35 stretch when the Cyclones reeled off a 16-2 run, cutting a 69-54 lead down to 71-70.
Uthoff’s lone basket after the break made it 77-74 with 3:48 left. His promising start finished with 32 points.
Then the basket dried up at Hilton, again, with the Hawkeyes going scoreless over the last 2:35.
“We made a couple key mistakes,” Uthoff said. “We’ve just got to learn from them.”