As members of the Iowa men’s basketball team reflected on Saturday’s 70-66 victory over Wisconsin, they all basically said the same thing.
They weren’t about to have a special occasion tainted by a loss.
A refuse-to-lose attitude, coupled with what the Iowa players described as the best atmosphere they had ever experienced inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena helped make the difference on a night when the memory of former Hawkeye Chris Street was celebrated.
“This is as good as it gets,” said Iowa senior Eric May. “You could tell there was something special tonight. We got so much energy from the crowd and it’s huge.”
Iowa bolted to a 20-point lead in the first half, but then had to hang on down the stretch as the pesky Badgers narrowed the gap to just three points.
The Hawkeyes made 10-of-12 free throws in the final 1 minute, 14 seconds of the second half to secure their third victory in a row over Wisconsin. Iowa swept Wisconsin last season for the first time since the 1994-95 campaign.
The victory improved Iowa’s records to 13-5 overall and 2-3 in the Big Ten, while Wisconsin fell to 13-5 and 4-1 in the conference. It was also Iowa’s first Big Ten victory at home this season in three tries. Iowa lost to Indiana and Michigan State by a combined seven points in the first two Big Ten games at Carver-Hawkeye Arena this season.
“We’ve played some really tough games this year at home and we’re getting stronger from it,” May said. “It’s just a mindset. What we’re continually getting better at is taking care of business at the end of games.”
Fans finally could sense the victory when junior forward Aaron White picked up a loose ball and drew a foul with 6.5 seconds remaining. White then made both free throws to expand the lead to 70-64.
When the game ended, the Iowa players rushed over to the student section to celebrate the emotional victory, which came exactly 20 years after Street was killed in an automobile accident on Jan. 19, 1993 on the outskirts of Iowa City.
Street’s parents, his two younger sisters and lots of other family and friends were all part of the sellout crowd of 15,400.
His parents and his two sisters met with the media before the game to reflect on Street’s legacy. They thanked the Iowa fans for their support over the years.
Street was killed 15 games into his junior season.
“We feel blessed that Christopher’s memory is alive and that people still remember,” said his mother, Patty Street.
Street was honored at halftime during a ceremony in which several former Iowa players, including Jess Settles, Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska, were recognized for winning the annual Chris Street Award during their careers.
A gold jersey with Street’s No. 40 and with his last name on the back of it also was draped over a chair on the Iowa bench.
The current Iowa players helped set the stage for the halftime ceremony by leading 34-18 at the break. Iowa also never trailed in the game.
White led four Iowa players in double figures with 17 points. He also made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 36.8 seconds to help secure the victory.
Iowa was held to a season-low six assists during Saturday’s game, but that doesn’t include the assist from the fans, who cheered loudly from start to finish.
“This fan base and this community is something special and something that really drew me here,” said White, who is a native of Strongsville, Ohio. “And it continues to impress me when I walk around. The people are great. The fans are great. I just love being here.”
Reserve guard George Marshall led Wisconsin with 20 points, all of which came in the second half.
May drew one of the loudest ovations of the night when he stole a pass near mid-court and then made a dunk to expand Iowa’s lead to 52-37 with 9:23 left to play.
“It seems like it’s been a while since I’ve had one of those,” May said. “I had just been reading it and it was perfect timing.
“I was just hoping I was going to get there. I jumped from a little far. I was hoping I wouldn’t get hung up by the rim.”
The Badgers refused to buckle though, trimming the deficit to 66-64 on a 3-point basket by Marshall with 22.5 seconds remaining.
White and junior guard Devyn Marble both made two free throws in the final 20.9 seconds to finally quell the rally.
Iowa dominated the first 20 minutes with exception to the Badgers closing the first half with an 8-4 scoring run.
Marble made a basket in the closing seconds before halftime to give Iowa a 16-point lead at the break. He also made a 3-point basket to give Iowa a 60-51 lead with 2:35 left to play. Marble’s trey came after Wisconsin had scored seven unanswered points.
“It was huge,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said of Marble’s trey.
Freshman guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons scored 11 and 10 points, respectively for Iowa. Gesell also didn’t have any turnovers, while Clemmons only had one.
Iowa finished the game with just seven turnovers as a team and made 24-of-29 free throw attempts.
Marble finished with 13 points and has scored in double figures in all but two of the games in which he has played this season.
McCaffery said the atmosphere inside the arena was unlike anything he had ever experienced as a player or coach.
“There was an energy level in that building that I had never seen before,” McCaffery said. “I’ve been in a lot of buildings in my playing and coaching career, but nothing like that.
“There is not a doubt in my mind there was a difference.”
Iowa now faces a quick turnaround with a game at Ohio State on Tuesday.
“We know that we had a rough start to the Big Ten and we have to get on a roll now,” Gesell said. “We’re still right in the race. Wisconsin was up at the top of the Big Ten and this was a very good win for us.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball