Frustration abounds after another close loss for men’s basketball


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All the way back on Iowa basketball media day — Oct. 14 — Fran McCaffery avoided the idea of a set number of wins being the goal for his new team.

“What I’m trying to do establish is a style of play, played the right way, and a group of young men who compete on every possession,” the first-year head coach said. “If we do that, the wins will take care of themselves.”

Well, the Hawkeyes seem to have a new style of play, played the right way, and a new competitive fire. Yet the wins seem to still elude the Hawkeyes, even though three of the last four games in the team’s four-game losing streak have come down to the final shot.

Feb. 19’s 75-72 overtime loss to Michigan stung in particular. A home game against a team the Hawkeyes had already lost to this year. But revenge wasn’t served cold. In fact, it wasn’t served at all.

Just another day in the season of oh-so-close for Iowa.

Disappointment was obvious during postgame interviews. There’s only so much one can say close game after close game.

Junior guard Matt Gatens recognized that the Michigan contest didn’t seem unique in the way it played out.

“It’s similar to a lot of games. That’s the difference between good teams and average teams is winning those close games,” he said. “It’s devastating for us.”

In games decided by 3 points or fewer this season — or games where the final possession could determine the outcome — the Hawkeyes are 1-4. The sole win was at Indiana on Feb. 5.

If the Hawkeyes had won even just two of those four games, particularly the two lost in overtime, the confidence of the squad could be much higher. Instead, the players have to say that their lack of experience isn’t losing them games, despite all the evidence that it is.

“It doesn’t take experience to rebound a basketball,” freshman guard Roy Devyn Marble said. “It’s who’s tougher and who’s grittier.”

As for his coach being OK with the team losing close games, so long as the Hawkeyes embody his early season goals, Marble didn’t believe that for a second.

“He wants to win. He doesn’t make excuses, he doesn’t care [about our youth],” Marble said. “We feel the same way. It doesn’t matter if we’re young, rebuilding, new coach. All that’s out the window. We’re trying to win.”

In reality, barring transfers or injuries, Iowa’s core will be back next year.

After the Michigan game, even McCaffery himself said his team would be OK next season with a good mix of new and returning players.

But as for the one man who won’t get to see the floor at Carver-Hawkeye in 2012, senior Jarryd Cole, he says it’s his job to make sure the Hawkeyes don’t look ahead. Whether it’s using himself as motivation, or just the fact that the team can still improve going into the Big Ten Tournament, Cole insists his last few games will be with players going their hardest.

“The season’s not over; the fellas know that,” he said. “We’re all fighters; we’re all warriors here.”

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