By Adam Jacobi on December 13, 2019 at 12:33 am
Jordan Bohannon 3 Signal
© Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Hope we didn't hurt their boys too bad.

Luka Garza led the way with 21 points and Jordan Bohannon added 12 points and three assists as Iowa flattened its in-state rival at Hilton Coliseum, 84-68, for the Hawkeyes' first win in Ames since 2003.

This is Iowa's second straight game shoving a loathed rival in a trash can, after Monday's throttling of Minnesota, and it was oh so sweet to do so in an arena that had been home to some absolute nightmares of late. The Hawkeyes exorcised a host of demons with Thursday's victory, and it did so by staring them in the face—and waiting for them to blink first.

Iowa State looked dreadful in the first half, clanging jumpers and going down by as many as 21 points before the Hawkeyes took a 39-24 lead into the break. Iowa played sloppy too, mind you; Garza was the focus of the offense and he delivered, racking up 13 points and five rebounds before the break. But the Hawkeyes didn't shoot great, didn't play great, and the response to the first half fit into three schools of thought:

  • NAIVE IOWA FANS: Iowa State's not good at basketball; this finna be a breeze!
  • SEASONED IOWA FANS: Cyclones played that badly and Iowa's only up 15? Yeah we're doomed.
  • IOWA STATE FANS: If we lose it can only be the refs' fault.

Lo and behold, Iowa State came out of the halftime gates chewing into the lead with aplomb, and an early 7-0 spurt helped the Cyclones cut the lead to 44-37 before the first TV timeout. The crowd was raucous, ISU's jumpers were falling, Iowa's weren't. ISU's passing was crisp and productive; Iowa was here to hang on for dear life and not doing a great job of it. The familiar nightmare looked to be well underway.

And then the Hawkeyes said the hell with that.

Connor McCaffery buried a three-pointer on the ensuing possession, kicking off a 21-6 run that ended with the Hawkeyes holding what had been their largest lead of the game, erasing every bit of work the Cyclones had done to make the game competitive, and leaving only 10 minutes on the clock in the process. Ten minutes is a long, long time at Hilton Coliseum, but the spirit was gone from the Cyclone faithful in attendance. You could hear it; it was gone.

From there it was all over but the booing; Iowa pushed the lead up to 25 at one point, Iowa State made one last push but the game never got closer than 12 points with 3:03 left. The Hilton fans got loud, but were quickly silent with every Iowa basket or stop. Deep down they knew too. This wasn't happening.

Iowa made 13 of 14 free throws in the second half, including an 8-for-8 performance by Bohannon and McCaffery in the final 3 1/2 minutes of play, and JBo kissed the departing Hilton fans goodbye on his final make of the evening. What a thoughtful guest!

Garza finished the game with 21 points, 11 rebounds and 3 assists—and one bloodied mouth, after an errant elbow from Joe Wieskamp during a scrum near the basket late in the second half. It kept Garza out for about a minute of game time. What Garza has done, especially against upper-level competition, has vaulted him firmly into First Team All-Big Ten discussion, and if it weren't for Kaleb Wesson's exploits in Columbus we might be dreaming even bigger. Dude is playing out of his mind, with poise, purpose and ferocity. His development is the difference between a potential tournament bid and this being the start of a long, long season. 

Let's also give credit to the rest of the backcourt. Joe Toussaint was fearless in his Hilton debut, with six points and a team-high(!) four assists in just 15 minutes. Joe Wieskamp was a menace on both ends of the floor, finishing with 13 points and eight rebounds, and he's quite obviously Iowa's best transition player right now. Numbers-wise, his production's not a huge step up from last season, but he's playing a higher class of basketball now. It's a lot of fun to watch.

And then there's Connor McCaffery, who chipped in 12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in the victory. McCaffery might be an even more improved player than Garza; he's got a trustworthy perimeter shot, he's poised with the ball in his hands and he's another automatic option at the foul line—crucial with Bohannon's continued presence in limbo. JBo makes Iowa a better team, without a doubt, but if he's really done for the season, Iowa's point guard situation is in fine hands with McCaffery and Toussaint as primary options.

As you certainly know, Bohannon didn't stop by blowing kisses to the Cyclone crowd (a nod to Georges Niang at Carver five years prior); he went a step further and signed his shoes and left them on the Hilton floor. We don't know if it's his last game against Iowa State, but it's almost certainly his last game at ISU, and what better way to memorialize the experience than by leaving a souvenir? Between the students rushing the field against Minnesota on A.J. Epenesa's command, Keith Duncan's Rapinoe-esque theatrics at Nebraska and now JBo twisting the knife at Hilton Coliseum, Iowa has leaned all the way in on its rivalries here in 2019, and we're 100% here for it.

One last observation: Iowa State did not look like a big-time basketball program Thursday night. Their physicality has taken a step back in recent years under Prohm, and they just looked... thin. Yeah, Kevin Durant is thin too, but there's no Kevins Durant on that sideline. Ken Pomeroy now projects Iowa State to go 16-15 (8-10) in that meat grinder of a conference; by comparison, Iowa's projected at 19-12 (11-9) after Thursday's win. No, the algorithm doesn't take Bohannon's potential redshirt into account, and yes, it's a long season and ISU could easily make a run in conference play.

If not, though... well, we already know it's a Hawkeye State.


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