IOWA CITY, Ia. — During a four-game losing streak, Iowa's basketball coaches made one off-court adjustment: They recommended the Hawkeye players back away from Twitter.
Sophomore center Luka Garza said Tuesday that his teammates and he took that advice two games ago, and it's been a good move. A segment of the fan base was growing testy, and he saw no need to feed into that.
"I think that's a good way — the coaches and all the players thought — to stay locked in. We're not really worried about what the fans are saying right now," Garza said as his team prepares to play an 8:30 p.m. Thursday game in the Big Ten Conference Tournament in Chicago. Iowa will face the winner of the Illinois-Northwestern game. The Hawkeyes, with a 21-10 record, are the 6 seed in a 14-team field.
Iowa players have often spoken about how they are aware of what's being said about them on social media. Junior point guard Jordan Bohannon, with nearly 16,000 Twitter followers, has been particularly active on the platform. He said Wednesday he's not sure when he'll get back on, but it's unlikely to be sometime during the remainder of this season.
"It's been present all year," Garza said of negative comments on Twitter, "but I don't think it was necessary. It was starting to get a little bit more amped up, especially with everything going on. So I think it was just a good, clean decision."
The Hawkeyes have lost five of their past six games to fall out of the national rankings. They suffered double-digit defeats at Ohio State and in their home finale against Rutgers. That's when the Twitter hiatus went into effect. Since, Iowa lost 65-45 at Wisconsin and 93-91 in overtime at Nebraska on Sunday to conclude the regular season.
Iowa players said Wednesday, though, that they are taking solace from their performance against the Cornhuskers that things are nearly back on track. The Hawkeyes led by 16 points in that game, only to see Nebraska stage a miracle rally in the final minute of regulation.
Star freshman Joe Wieskamp, who is about to experience his first postseason play in college, said he feels rejuvenated after a grueling season.
"I think it’s a little bit of mental, just staying fresh, getting your mind off of basketball sometimes, so when you do get in to practice, you’re focused," Wieskamp said.
Iowa is hardly alone among Big Ten teams to have slumps this season. Each of the bottom nine teams in the league has lost at least four Big Ten games in a row at some point this winter.
"Ours just happened to be at the end of the season," Moss said.
"We’ve done great things this year. And moving forward, we're going to be better."
Moss said he wasn't particularly active on Twitter, but he was aware of widespread criticism of his team over the last four games. He said not paying attention to that was a good step.
Garza said the Twitter critics weren't causing him to second-guess things...
"But it's not helping," he said. "So it's just kind of out there, as a distraction. Nothing positive comes from it, especially when we're playing not as well as we're capable of."
Garza is coming off a 25-point performance against Nebraska. He said the Hawkeyes are intent on changing the narrative about them this week.
"We’re all focused on making a run and playing the way we’re capable of," Garza said. "Because when we do, there’s not many teams that can beat us."
That quote will no doubt get plenty of attention on Twitter. But the Hawkeyes won't see it.