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Commentary: Bad loss could be a good thing

BY IAN MARTIN | FEBRUARY 10, 2011 7:10 AM

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Enough with the praising and smoke blowing and whatnot. Kind of.

This was a bad loss for Iowa. And that’s a good thing.

Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery has stated before that no game is a moral victory. He restated this Wednesday night.

If ever there was a template for the ultimate “moral victory,” it may be something like Wednesday — stay close with a ranked team, and maybe even take it to overtime, but in the end, fall just short.

But again, the head coach wasn’t satisfied with the team losing what was ultimately a winnable contest.

“I wasn’t happy,” McCaffery said about his locker room demeanor with the team after the final buzzer. “If you were in there, there was nothing resembling a moral victory. I was not happy at all.”

He was unhappy with good reason. The team gave up 16 offensive rebounds. Ridiculous.

Also, the Hawkeyes had a chance to win the game at the end of regulation and to tie it at the end of overtime. Fran’s crew converted on neither of these.

Take away the rankings and records, and show this game to a random basketball fan. Iowa was as good of a team as Wisconsin, at least for this one night.

One fewer 3 made for Wisconsin in overtime or one more free throw for Iowa in regulation, and this game likely has a different result.

This all goes back to the culture of the program.

One of the certain positives that can come from this is that the players’ attitudes are in the right place. Even after a loss to a ranked team, the Hawkeyes are acting as if they could have won.

Many rebuilding brands would say, “Well, we played our best.” Not the Hawkeyes. This whole season, it’d be tough to find a postgame interview room as somber as Wednesday’s.

Both Jarryd Cole and Melsahn Basabe sat down, seemingly drained from the 45 minutes of pure excitement.

Almost all of the players’ attitudes can be summed up by the senior Cole’s most concise quote.

“We had it right there, and we let it slip,” he said.

That they did.

With that in mind, Iowa’s rough loss Wednesday could be a good thing in one other way: If it somehow propels the team to stay motivated for the last six regular-season games.

Before this, Iowa was a team on a roll. A two-game Big Ten winning streak, increased fan interest, and a swagger not seen in years. For once this season, the side even had a few expectations coming into the matchup with Wisconsin.

But in this failure, the team may be able to find an extra edge.

There’s nothing more motivating than revenge in sport, and while the Hawkeyes don’t play Wisconsin again this regular season, the team should try to use the anger from letting a winnable game turn into another number in the L column.

Now, only time can foresee if a bad loss can somehow turn into a good thing.


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