Huskers get throttled in 96-72 blowout at Iowa
IOWA CITY, Iowa – As a player and coach at Iowa State and even into his first season at Nebraska, Fred Hoiberg had owned the Iowa Hawkeyes.
That theme changed in a major way on Saturday night, as Hoiberg and the Huskers were outmatched from start to finish in a 96-72 debacle at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for their eighth straight loss.
The duo of Joe Wieskamp (30) and Luka Garza (22) combined to score 52 of Iowa’s 96 points, and it took less than five minutes to put NU down by 14 for the eighth consecutive game.
The Hawkeyes would lead by as many as 38 points before all was said and done, marking the largest deficit Nebraska had faced this season.
Nebraska dropped to 7-16 overall and 2-10 in Big Ten play, while Iowa bumped up to 17-7, 8-5. It also marked just Hoiberg’s second loss to the Hawkeyes as a player or coach, dropping his career record to 8-2.
“It was really fun,” Hoiberg joked sarcastically when asked about coaching his first game in the state of Iowa since 2015. “It was great.”
The game couldn’t have gotten off to a much worse start for Nebraska, as Iowa came storming out of the gates on a 15-2 run while hitting seven of its first nine shots, including three of its first four 3-pointers.
Luckily for NU, the Hawkeyes temporarily returned to Earth offensively and went eight full minutes without a point. The Huskers slowly trimmed a 16-point deficit down to four with a 12-0 run, but Iowa finally found its stroke again and made three straight shots to push the lead up to 31-23.
CJ Frederick was then able to get IU’s lead back to double digits going into halftime with a prayer 3-pointer at the buzzer that made it 41-30 at the break.
“I knew (Iowa) would come out with some fire,” Hoiberg said. “I talked to our guys about that, withstanding runs. I knew they’d come out of the locker room with fire, and they did.”
Garza scored 13 points while the Hawkeyes made five 3-pointers compared to Nebraska’s 1-of-10 shooting from behind the arc. But junior guard Jervay Green came off the bench with 11 of his team-high 18 points on 5-of-7 shooting and five rebounds to keep NU afloat in the first half.
“We’ve had some starts like that,” Hoiberg said. “The one thing we continued to do was try to play the right way to get back into it. In the second half, we didn’t.”
It took all of 2:26 for Iowa to match its largest lead yet, as Wieskamp scored seven points in a row to put the Hawkeyes back up 48-32.
That margin would balloon to 66-38 a few minutes later after back-to-back 3-pointers by Wieskamp, and a pair of free throws by former Husker Bakari Evelyn pushed it to 78-45 with nine minutes to go.
Iowa took its largest lead of the night after two 3-pointers by walk-on Austin Ash that made it 86-48 with seven minutes still to play. Nebraska’s previous largest deficit this season had been 32 in a road loss at Creighton back in December.
“We can’t play 12 minutes in a game, we can't play 35 minutes in this league and expect to win,” Hoiberg said. “You have to play a complete 40-minute game.”
It was all semantics from there, as Iowa cleared its bench and went on cruise control for an eventual 24-point victory.
“It’s hard,” junior guard Thorir Thorbjarnarson said of losing eight in a row. “But the only way it’s going to get better is if we keep going… We can’t hang our heads. We have to push through.”
Green finished with 18 points and seven rebounds to lead Nebraska in both categories, while Cam Mack added 13 points and Dachon Burke chipped in 12.
The road won’t get any easier for the Huskers, as they hit the road again on Tuesday night to take on No. 9 Maryland for a 7:30 p.m. tip on BTN.
“This league’s a monster,” Hoiberg said. “There’s no letting up. We’re going to go to Maryland for our next one who’s competing for a league championship right now. So just try to find a way to stay together as much as we can.”
1. This was the season's new low point
Nebraska’s had more than its share of lopsided losses over the past couple of decades, but Saturday’s thumping at Iowa was one of the worst we’ve seen in a while.
It wasn’t just that Iowa took the game over from the opening tip after Nebraska had spent all week trying challenging itself following an ugly home loss to Penn State. The Huskers at least fought back and kept the game competitive going into halftime.
But when Iowa came out firing after the break, NU looked like it had once again lost all faith in itself. There was a 12-minute stretch in the second half where Iowa went 16-of-21 from the field and 5-of-6 from 3-point range.
During that same span, the Huskers shot 6-of-17, were 2-of-11 from behind the arc and turned the ball over seven times. Hoiberg said he saw the same bad body language he as the end of the Penn State loss, especially in a total lack of effort on the defensive end.
“That was the one thing, I told them if they’re not going to get back in transition then stay on the bus, because we wouldn’t have a chance if that happened,” Hoiberg said. “They’re too good getting down the floor, they’re too explosive, and they have too many weapons.”
In summary, Iowa’s 96 points were the most it’s ever put up against the Huskers, and the 24-point victory was its largest winning margin in the series. Nebraska is now 2-17 all-time in Iowa City.
2. Cheatham's injury was another blow
As if the second half couldn’t have gone much worse for Nebraska, it saw senior leader Haanif Cheatham go down with an injury with just over 10 minutes left in the game.
Cheatham appeared to collide with freshman center Yvan Ouedraogo after a basket by Ryan Kriener with 10:11 left in the game. He remained down on the floor clutching his right calf until NU trainers helped him to the locker room.
Hoiberg said the initial diagnosis of the injury was a right calf contusion. Cheatham was seen limping heavily walking out of the locker room after the game with an ice pack on his calf.
The grad transfer from Florida Gulf Coast was held scoreless on two missed shots in just 15 minutes of action at Iowa. He has started all 23 games this season and came into Saturday ranked second on the team with 12.4 points per contest.
“We’ll see how he reacts to it,” Hoiberg said of Cheatham’s status going forward. “Obviously it was very tender, very sore. He could not put much weight on it.”
3. Green was the bright spot
There wasn’t much at all for Nebraska to feel good about in this one, but the play of Green was at least one bright spot of the night.
A player who's had a roller-coaster season, to say the least, was arguably the Huskers’ best all-around asset against Iowa. His defensive energy gave NU a desperately needed spark when he checked into the game in the first half, and his offensive production was by far tops on the team.
Green not only led Nebraska with 18 points and seven rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench, but he did so on 8-of-12 shooting with two assists for a team-high player efficiency rating of 22.
Getting that type of effort and execution out of Green on a consistent basis would be a huge boost to a squad that needs all the help it can get right now. Hoiberg said players like Green would continue to see increased roles if they kept earning it in practice.
All 10 scholarship players saw the court on Saturday night, and all played at least 11 minutes.
“I just wanted to see the guys who came to compete this week in practice, I wanted to reward them for that,” Hoiberg said.