LINCOLN, Neb. — Whether the officiating crew of Terry Wymer, Steve McJunkins and Donnie Eppley did a good job in Nebraska’s 93-90, double-overtime win over Iowa on Thursday night is in the eye of the beholder.
But here are the facts:
When the game was in its multiple deciding moments, Nebraska consistently went to the free-throw line, and Iowa didn’t, in front of a feverish crowd of 14,939 at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The Cornhuskers shot the game’s final 16 free-throw attempts. Four of them came with Iowa leading by four in the final minute of the first overtime.
And the last foul called against Nebraska while Iowa was running its offense? It was whistled with 3 minutes, 20 seconds left in regulation.
“What a game. It was dramatic. It was controversial, I guess,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said after his team improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten Conference while Iowa fell to 1-2. “Don’t ask me what happened; I don’t know.”
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery had words for the officials throughout the game, starting with the first television timeout after a no-call on Cordell Pemsl’s attempted layup.
A foul on Iowa’s Isaiah Moss was called with 11 seconds in regulation with Iowa leading by two; Nebraska forced overtime with two free throws.
A foul was whistled on Iowa’s Peter Jok in the same up-two situation with 12 seconds left in the first overtime; Nebraska forced a second with two free throws.
“They were trying their best to keep it clean and give both teams a chance,” McCaffery said. “It was a tough game to officiate.”
Coaches can get fined for criticizing officials; players can’t. Iowa’s players weren’t so sure about some of the calls in the long game.
Jok, who finished with 34 points, said he was slapped on his final shot attempt of regulation that could’ve won the game.
“I don’t know how to lose the ball without somebody hitting me,” said Jok, who was later whistled for four fouls in the overtimes and fouled out with 54 seconds left. “They played good defense, I guess.”
Freshman Tyler Cook was surprised at all four fouls called against him, two of which came in the game’s first 5½ minutes and sent one of Iowa’s most effective scorers to the bench.
“I’m going to go back and watch the tape, but I didn’t agree with any of the calls,” Cook said. “Two in the first half, I thought I had my hands straight up.”
A game to learn from
Thursday’s game for Moss was a snapshot of his and this young team’s makeup: wow moments combined with frustration.
The redshirt freshman looked like a cool veteran in the first half.
With Jok struggling and Cook in foul trouble, he scored 15 first-half points on 6-of-10 shooting in 16 minutes.
“I just tried to come out with confidence,” Moss said. “My teammates had confidence in me. They passed me the ball, told me to shoot it.”
Moss had only two points after halftime in 21 minutes, and his turnover with 18 seconds left in the second overtime was costly. Down 91-90, Iowa could’ve held the ball for the last shot. Instead, the Hawkeyes were forced to foul.
“That’s a tough situation for that kid,” McCaffery said of Moss’ final turnover. “Because we’ve been trying to get him to be aggressive. And if he’s not aggressive in the first half, we're probably down 15, 17 (points). He bails us out in the first half, so you got to be careful in how much you go after the kid on the play. Yeah, it wasn’t the play we wanted. No, it wasn’t. He knows that now.”
Moss wound up with 17 points in 37 minutes despite battling what he called stomach-flu symptoms. He had totaled seven points in Iowa’s first two Big Ten games.
“He’s explosive. He can get to the rim and finish, typically,” McCaffery said. “He has the 3-point shot, he has the pull-up jumper. He’s a legitimate offensive threat. We need him to be that to help take some of the pressure off Jordan (Bohannon) and Pete and Cordell and Tyler.”
Baer’s savvy, productive game
Lost in the frenzy of a finish Thursday night was this line from Iowa forward Nicholas Baer: five points, 11 rebounds, six blocked shots.
Yet he made one play that extended the game that only showed up on the stat sheet as a personal foul.
After Jok lost the ball with a few seconds to play in a 74-74 game in regulation, it looked like Nebraska’s Evan Taylor would have an uncontested layup to win it. But Baer sprinted down the floor and caught Taylor, fouling him hard enough to prevent the bucket but not hard enough to warrant a flagrant foul.
Taylor then missed both free throws with 1.3 seconds left, sending the game to overtime.
“That’s something I’ve always been taught since my days at Bettendorf,” Baer said. “Just hustling … understanding time and score. I’d rather have a guy make two free throws than just lay it up.”