AMES — Iowa’s players emerged from their locker room with their egos battered but their confidence still intact.
Three possessions in the final minute relegated a program seeking a defining road win back to Iowa City searching for answers. Unlike in the past, they know where to find them.
No. 23 Iowa (10-2) dropped an 85-82 heartbreaker to instate rival No. 17 Iowa State (8-0) at Hilton Coliseum on Friday night. The Cyclones scored the game’s final eight points inside of 1 minutes, 21 seconds. Iowa missed four free throws inside 90 seconds that kept the team from its first win in Ames since 2003.
“They made the plays down the stretch that they needed to, and we didn’t,” Iowa junior forward Aaron White. “You can’t take that away from the game itself. They never went away. We never went away.”
With the Hawkeyes leading 82-79 and 1 minute remaining, Iowa’s Jarrod Uthoff took a jump shot. White rebounded and tried to dribble but Iowa State point guard DeAndre Kane stole the ball with 50 seconds left. That ISU possession led to a pair of Melvin Ejim free throws to cut Iowa’s lead to 82-81.
“I had control of it. I wasn’t planning on dribbling it,” White said. “(Kane) hit the ball out of my arm; it got knocked away and I tried to gather it. It led to a foul for them, and it’s a big play in the game.”
“That would have been a good one …,” Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery said.
White finished with a game-high in both points (25) and rebounds (17). He was 11-of-15 from the floor. The statistics meant nothing to him afterward.
“That doesn’t matter,” he said.
But the next two offensive possessions really cost the Hawkeyes. Ejim fouled Iowa’s Devyn Marble with 35.8 seconds left. Marble missed the front end of a one-and-one, and after a timeout, ISU’s Georges Niang scored inside to put the Cyclones ahead 83-82.
Five seconds later, Iowa’s Mike Gesell drove to the basket and was fouled by Dustin Hogue. Gesell missed both free throws; the second attempt rattled in and out.
“I knew I wanted to try to get to the basket,” Gesell said. “I tried to draw a foul or get an offensive rebound, something. Just try to make a play. I missed two free throws, two crucial free throws that I usually make.”
Iowa had one final chance to tie when Zach McCabe barely missed a 3-pointer with 3 seconds left. But the game ended with ISU fans rushing the court and Iowa players thinking about a steal and missed free throws.
“Of course I’d give anything back (to make the free throw),” said Marble, who scored 19 points and dished six assists. “I missed it. It felt good, though. I think that’s what makes it worse. When you think it’s good and it feels good and it doesn’t go in.”
Gesell finished with 11 points and six assists but missed three free throws in the final three minutes. Still, McCaffery has complete faith in both players at the free-throw line.
“I know they feel terrible right now,” McCaffery said. “I feel for them. But if I could pick who I’d want, I’d want those two guys. That’s why they were in that position. I feel bad for both of them.”