35 years and nothing to show for

BY BEN ROSS | FEBRUARY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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The last time Iowa won a regular-season Big Ten title in men’s basketball was in 1979 (tied with two other teams), when the Hawkeyes played in the Field House under Lute Olson. Iowa had an All-American on that team in point guard Ronnie Lester, and the squad lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament that season.

Fast forward to now, when Iowa will go on its 35th-straight year without a Big Ten title. The squad suffered a 79-74 punch in the gut on Feb. 22 to No. 16 Wisconsin, dropping Iowa to 8-5 in the conference and making a Big Ten regular season crown all but mathematically impossible. Iowa finds itself with a 1-3 record in its past four home games. Prior to that streak, the Hawkeyes were riding a 20-0 tidal wave at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

“Yeah — we lost to three good teams,” Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said after the loss to when he was asked if there was anything in common with Iowa’s three previous hiccups at home.

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Iowa needed a win over Wisconsin to help build its NCAA Tournament résumé and to have any real shot of winning the Big Ten title outright. The most recent contest against the Badgers opened some eyes, though. Iowa really may not be anything extra-special on the basketball court and is certainly undeserving of any conference accolades. Devyn Marble did continue to build his case for Big Ten Player of the Year, though, netting 21 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists against the Badgers.

“We gotta move on,” Marble said after the loss. “We have a long stretch ahead of us. This was disappointing, but we have to move on. I think every loss stings or hurts, I don’t think this loss is good for the program, I don’t think any loss is good for the program.”

The Hawkeyes (19-7, 8-5 Big Ten) outscored Wisconsin (22-5, 9-5) in the second half, but it wasn’t enough. Iowa senior forward Zach McCabe had a chance to tie the game with a 3-point attempt with 17 ticks left on the clock. McCabe’s shot —a wide-open look — fell about a couple feet short of the rim. It slipped out of his hands, he said after the game.

Iowa fans took to Twitter to criticize McCabe after the contest, saying things that are normally reserved for the cesspit that is the comment section on Reddit. McCabe deleted his Twitter account afterwards, following a tweet he sent that included expletive-filled speech directed at Iowa’s negative fans. Much like Marlo Stanfield, McCabe just wanted to protect his name and used some language he likely regrets.

But you can’t blame just one guy, let alone McCabe, on Iowa’s loss. He was thrown into his first start of the season just minutes before the game when it was determined Melsahn Basabe was too ill to compete. Sure, he had no points and fouled out in 19 minutes on the floor, but he wasn’t the one who turned the ball over on two-consecutive possessions late in the game while Iowa had a lead. McCabe didn’t allow Wisconsin to score 9 points while the shot clock rang loud in the ears of those who attended Carver that day.

McCabe made no excuses after the game, and answered question after question about the last shot of the game with honesty and as much gusto as one who just lost a heartbreaker could possibly muster.

“It was a frustrating game. Stuff didn’t go our way. Something like that happens to you, that’s frustrating also,” McCabe said. “No excuse for it.”

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