Purdue upset was for Cole, by Cole

BY IAN MARTIN | MARCH 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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Ten minutes after Iowa’s 67-65 upset of No. 6 Purdue on March 5, the Hawkeyes’ only four-year senior couldn’t contain himself.

The usually reserved — albeit always positive — Jarryd Cole ran into the Carver-Hawkeye Arena tunnel toward the locker room with a smile so large that it may still be there as you read this.

He fervently shook Athletics Director Gary Barta’s hand, still smiling, and went in to his home locker room after his final home game. As he opened the door, his teammates could be heard shouting “HEY” and congratulating the man who deserved this win more than anyone else on the team.

Cole’s story has been told plenty during his final year. The center was recruited by Steve Alford, played for Todd Lickliter, and is finishing up his career with Fran McCaffery.

On March 5, though, none of it mattered. Even had there been no coach on the bench, there would’ve been no stopping Jarryd Cole on his Senior Day.

“This is how I wanted it to go,” Cole said. “Very seldom have I gotten anything the way I wanted it to go here.”

The Kansas City, Mo., native had 16 points and 10 rebounds in the shocking victory, made all the more impressive when considering that he was often defended by possible Big Ten Player of the Year JaJuan Johnson.

He hit clutch shots, such as his score with 4:16 left in the game to give Iowa the lead for good. His 16-foot jumper to give Iowa a 63-59 with under two minutes left wasn’t bad, either.

Cole said it himself, that much of his career has been tough — with losing seasons, no NCAA Tournament appearances, and not a single win in the Big Ten Tournament.

That’s why this one was more important than any game before. A Top-10 upset on Senior Day was the way the entire team knew would be fair sendoff for Cole.

“He’s probably the best teammate you could ask for,” sophomore Eric May said. “You really want to end his career at home in a good way.

“I’m proud of him, and I hope he’s proud of us the way we played tonight.”

It’s amazing to hear players talk about Cole as though he almost is their coach. They want to make sure to not let him down. Even the team’s actual coach talked about Cole in a manner that’s unusually candid for a coach talking about a current player.

“Everyone feels the same way about him,” McCaffery said. “They appreciate his effort, his smile, his leadership … We all wanted it for him.”

The respect he commands was obvious around Carver-Hawkeye, too.

Students painted his name across their chests and even started chanting his name a few times.

And when fans stormed the court, Cole lingered longer than the other players. Anyone who wanted a high-five was sure to get one. He said that it was his first career court-rush.

In his postgame interview, he tried to keep it about his team, his “guys,” as he calls them. Wearing his usual corduroy jacket, he credited the fans, his teammates, and his coach before finally talking about himself.

Still grinning wider than a Cheshire Cat, Cole said what he’s been able to say less often than he’d like.

“That was great, man; that was fun.”

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