Hawkeye hoops disappointed, but motivated

BY SETH ROBERTS | MARCH 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Iowa locker room was as energetic as a funeral parlor after the team’s loss to Michigan State in the opening round of the Big Ten Tournament on Thursday.

The Hawkeyes were slumped around the room deep in the bowels of Conseco Field House. They weren’t talking to each other. When they answered questions, their responses were given in a dull monotone.

And most of their responses contained the same two words: pain and disappointment.

Iowa had a golden opportunity to win its first Big Ten Tournament game since 2006, but let it slip away despite being the better team in almost every facet of the game on Thursday. The Black and Gold recorded more points off turnovers and fast breaks than the Spartans and almost equaled Sparty’s points in the paint despite fielding a much smaller lineup. Iowa even held a 7-point lead in the second half, and Michigan State appeared to be on its heels.

But in the end, Sparty was celebrating and the Hawkeyes were left wondering what had happened.

“Any game you lose is a missed opportunity,” freshman forward Melsahn Basabe said. “But today [was] definitely [worse] because it was such a close game and we were right there … It hurts, and just looking at my senior, Jarryd Cole, hurts even more.”

Cole, in turn, accepted responsibility for the loss in his final game as a Hawkeye. Iowa was down by a point when the senior turned the ball over on the baseline with 30 seconds left. The Black and Gold had to foul down the stretch, and Michigan State made all its free throws.

“Having that last opportunity right there — I’m not going to be able to get that out of my head for years to come,” Cole said as he sat in a corner, elbows on his knees. “Being in that situation, and having the opportunity to do something about the game at that point [is] something guys live for. I buckled. It hurts.”

His teammates don’t hold a grudge. As the buzzer sounded and Michigan State fans began to roar, point guard Bryce Cartwright strode over to embrace his senior cocaptain. Cole sheepishly said Cartwright told him he loved him as the pair walked back to the bench.

And while losing in his final game undoubtedly leaves a bitter taste in Cole’s mouth, he said players like Cartwright give him hope for the program in the near future.

The point guard from Compton, Calif., said he wasn’t satisfied with just leading the Hawkeyes with 14 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Speaking from the shadows deep inside his locker, the junior said losing close games like the one on Thursday throughout the year was disappointing — but he said he’s willing to do anything to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself next season.

“As soon as I get back [to Iowa City], I’m going to definitely think about it,” Cartwright said. “I’m a senior now, and it starts now. It’s my last year now. I’ll do everything [I can] to get this team better.”

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