No. 4 Iowa State overcame 30 first half points from Jarrod Uthoff, a 20 point second half deficit and a 82-74 deficit with two minutes left to beat arch-rival Iowa at Hilton Coliseum, 83-82.
Jameel McKay was the best player on the floor for Iowa State, finishing with 20 points, 12 boards, two assists and two steals. It was his energy that set the tone and sparked the comeback, as he routinely earned extra possessions for the Cyclones with offensive rebounds (eight).
As good as McKay was, star point guard Monte’ Morris is going to be the guy that gets all the headlines. A potential all-american this season, Morris finished with 20 points and nine assists, his most important two points coming with just eight seconds left in the game.
On the ensuing possession, Uthoff missed a pretty good look from the top of the key that would have won the game at the buzzer.
Instead, Iowa heads back to Iowa City with their third loss of the season.
And really, is anyone surprised?
Put another way, are there any Iowa fans that expected anything other than their hearts getting ripped out on Thursday night?
Because that’s the reputation that Iowa has built for themselves in Fran McCaffery’s tenure as head coach. Their struggles aren’t a result of being unable to get talent to campus; they have players. And it’s not a result of those players not fitting well together; you saw that first half, right?
Iowa just never seems to be able to close anything out. They blow leads. They lose games they shouldn’t lose late in the year. They waste ridiculous performances — Uthoff scored 30 points in the first half! That’s some Steph Curry stuff right there! — and big early season wins. And I don’t know why.
But I can make a couple of guesses:
- There’s a lack of leadership of that team. No one in that huddle was willing to yell at his teammates to wake them up. No one seemed to be demanding the ball down the stretch, willing to put the onus on themselves to stop the bleeding. No one decided they were going to make it their business to make sure McKay didn’t get another offensive rebound. They needed someone to step up and make a play and no one did.
- With all due respect to Iowa State, a 20 point lead should never, ever be given away like that. The Hawkeyes looked like they were ready to accept defeat with five minutes left in the game, even tho Iowa State didn’t actually take the lead until that final Morris basket. You can only tell so much from watching on TV, but that team did not look like a team that refused to accept defeat. They looked like they were just waiting to see how the hell they were going to choke this one away. In other words, there does not appear to be a “winning culture” in that locker room.
Whatever the case may be, the bottom line is that this is the kind of collapse that can kill the confidence of a team, particularly one that has been done in by losses like this before.
As far as Iowa State is concerned, that was an incredible comeback, one that is going to be mentioned in that rivalry for a long, long time. Monte’ Morris and Jameel McKay were sensational, particularly in the second half, and Matt Thomas finally got on track shooting the ball, hitting six threes and scoring 19 points on the night.
That said, the win didn’t exactly answer the questions we have about this team. Can they defend at an elite level? Uthoff got 30 in one half on ISU in Ames. Will McKay be able to survive being the only adequate big man on the roster? He was totally gassed with four minutes left, a major reason why Iowa was able to go on a late 7-0 run to push the lead to 82-74, a lead that really should have been enough to lock up the win.
So … the answer to both those questions, at least on Thursday, was a ‘No’.