After falling to Rutgers on Friday, Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg put together a game plan aimed not only at defeating Iowa but shaking off the disappointing loss. Tuesday Hoiberg’s Huskers executed that plan to near perfection, building a double-digit first half lead, then holding off a second-half Hawkeye comeback to take a 76-70 win.
“It was exactly what we worked on the last few days and guys went out, really bought into the game plan and believed in it,” Hoiberg said. “I’m really proud of the guys… To come out and play with that type of intensity and effort after that disappointing last home game, you know, says a lot about our guys and hopefully it’s one that we can build on.” Nebraska (7-8, 2-2 Big Ten) led by seven at the half, but saw Iowa (10-5, 1-3) come back to take its only lead of the game on Joe Weiskamp’s 3-pointer that made the score 51-50 with 12:40 remaining.
The Huskers pushed the lead back to five on Kevin Cross’ dunk with 7:22 left only to see Iowa tie the score at 59 on another Weiskamp 3-pointer at the 5:19 mark. Thorir Thorbjarnson hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 10-3 Nebraska spurt that put the Huskers up 69-62 on Cam Mack’s layup with 1:47 left. The Hawkeyes got no closer than four the rest of the way.
Nebraska opened up a 12-point first-half lead on Haanif Cheatam’s free throws with 8:04 left as the Huskers swarming defense frustrated Luka Garza, Iowa’s 6-foot-11 center and leading scorer, who didn’t notch a point in the game’s first 12 minutes. Garza put up 9 points in the last 7:39 of the half and Iowa cut the Nebraska lead to three. But a late Husker flurry built the lead back to double digits and saw Nebraska up 38-31 at half.
“I think we did pretty good.,” said Thorbjarnson, who led Nebraska with 17 points. “It also helped that they started 1 for 15 for three and ended 4 for 33. They weren’t in rhythm and weren’t making their shots. “But I think our emphasis on letting certain guys shoot and packing the paint, closing out for Garza, I think, yeah, the game plan went perfectly. They had one run in the second half where I think they got up one. I think we led the rest of the way. We did a really good job not letting them back in again.”
Iowa lost the game at the 3-point and free throw lines. The Hawkeyes hit just 4 of 33 3-point attempts and made just 2 of 5 free throws. “We didn’t shoot it well,” said Iowa coach Fran McCaffery. “We didn’t have a ton of turnovers. We had a few coming down the stretch. Defensively, we were not as good as we needed to be for 40 minutes. We were good at times. But we got worn down a little bit.” Nebraska made 10 of 26 3-pointers and hit 14 of 26 from the free throw line.
The Big Picture
Iowa — Tuesday’s game ended a stretch dating back to Nov. 28 in which Iowa played eight of 10 games away from home. Iowa will have traveled over 8,000 miles in six weeks when it gets back to Iowa City Tuesday night.
Nebraska — Nebraska has struggled shooting 3-pointers this season, hitting just 33 percent of their 3-point attempts The Huskers warmed up from 3 in the first half, hitting 7 of 16 shots. Nebraska returned to form in the second half, hitting just 3 of 10 3-pointers.
Iowa hosts No. 12 Maryland Friday
Nebraska travels to Northwestern Saturday.