Leistikow's First Word: More of the same for the Iowa Hawkeyes in Ames
The Iowa basketball 2017-18 narrative hasn’t changed.
Neither has the Cy-Hawk one in Ames.
The Hawkeyes’ losing streak is now eight in Hilton Coliseum, with an in-reach victory turning into a painful defeat.
The Hawkeyes led by five at halftime, but Iowa State won, 84-78, before 14,384 rowdy fans here.
For Iowa, it’s more of the same. A struggling team that can’t put 40 minutes together.
The Hawkeyes led by five at halftime and looked pretty good for most of 30 minutes, but turnovers and ill-timed cold spells and Fran McCaffery's stubbornness to use his timeouts left the Hawkeyes down nine, a large hole to dig out of, with 6½ minutes to go.
This team needs a pick-me-up, and it isn’t getting one.
Down 79-74 with 1½ minutes left, shooting guard Brady Ellingson got two wide-open 3-point attempts in a single key possession. He missed them both — long, then short. Then after securing a steal, Ellingson slipped and traveled.
It was that kind of night.
And it’s been that kind of season for the Hawkeyes, who have now lost six of their last seven games and are 4-6 overall with 30 percent of the season in the books.
As most remember, Iowa’s losing streak here — which dates to a low-scoring Hawkeye win in the 2003 NIT — was painfully extended with late-game collapses in 2013 and 2015.
It was hard to fathom how the Hawkeyes squandered each game — up three with the ball in the final minute in ’13 (an 85-82 loss), then frittering a 20-point second-half lead in ’15 (an 83-82 score).
For a while, it looked like that history could be coming to an end.
Freshman Jack Nunge played some of his best basketball of his young career. Iowa weathered some early storms, with Jordan Bohannon (11 first-half points) calming things down. The often-sloppy Hawkeyes even just one turnover in the final 10:55 of the first half, and that was on a shot-clock violation — and even then, they got a field-goal attempt but it was an Isaiah Moss air ball.
Iowa plays Southern on Sunday before the Hawkeye takes on another in-state opponent, Drake, in the Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines.
The Hawkeyes' RPI before this game was 247. Drake's was 193. Not even that game on Dec. 16 will be a sure win.
And Thursday night was reminder that everything's a struggle right now for Iowa.
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 23 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.