The Iowa Hawkeyes moved to 6-0 on the year with a 69-68 win over Pittsburgh Tuesday night, in a game more dichotomous than any in recent memory. A first half marked by lackadaisical Hawkeye defense and lights-out shooting by the Panthers gave way to a physical, grinding, ugly slog in the second. It just so happened that Iowa was barely better at the slog than Pitt was at the shootout.
The Panthers scored 46 first-half points on 62 percent shooting from the field, but Iowa managed to stay within six points. Things got chippy when both teams ramped up their defenses early in the second half. Pitt's offensive production was cut in half: The Panthers were averaging 1.27 points per possession in the first half and just 0.63 points per possession in the second. Iowa's downturn wasn't as pronounced, but it was considerable. There were 31 combined turnovers, almost all in the second half, and 41 fouls between the two teams. Iowa only made seven two-point baskets all night.
The full devolution came in the last five minutes. At the 4:51 mark, Joe Weiskamp made a layup to put Iowa ahead 66-63. It would be the last basket made in the game by either team. The next ten shots were missed, including a three-point attempt by Connor McCaffery with ten seconds to play that bounced out, but was rebounded by Tyler Cook. The Iowa junior forward, who had previously suffered an egregious elbow to the head ignored by the referees, was immediately fouled by three Panthers knocking him to the floor. Cook reacted as would be expected -- by pulling down one Panther and kicking out against the other two before a referee intervened -- then missed both free throws. Fortunately, Pitt missed on two attempts at the buzzer, and Iowa escaped.
If you're looking for a silver lining, it's that Iowa got production from sources it hadn't yet needed this year. Freshman forward Joe Weiskamp recorded his first career double-double, scoring 18 and grabbing 11 rebounds. Jordan Bohannon scored 12, mostly in the first half, and got six steals on the defensive end. And Nicholas Baer, who struggled so mightily last season and has played from the bench all of this year, scored 14 of Iowa's last 16 points as basically the only guy on the court who could make a shot in the last ten minutes. Baer finished with 16 points and five boards, his highest point total since the Penn State game. In March. 2017.
It wasn't all terrible. Iowa was able to find defense on a night where, for twenty minutes, it looked as if they were physically unable to hang with a team that went 0-18 in the ACC last year. The Hawkeyes still managed to dominate at the free throw line, proving the concept of this year's James Harden-esque offensive strategy. And Iowa got the win, which is always the biggest goal. But with Wisconsin, Michigan State and Iowa State to come in the next ten days, Iowa needs to be sharper or suffer a couple of setbacks.