As long as it took the Iowa men’s basketball team to build up a three-game win streak and collect more hope of a strong finish towards an NCAA Tournament berth, that momentum fell flat to the ground in a matter of minutes late during the Hawkeyes’ battle with Nebraska on Saturday.
The Hawkeyes built a 19-point lead in the first half and could do no wrong in the first 20 minutes but could not sustain the advantage for an entire 40 minutes as the Cornhuskers rallied to beat Iowa, 64-60, but outscoring the Hawkeyes 39-19 in second half.
"I hope the fans are very disappointed, they should be extremely disappointed," said UI head coach Fran McCaffery. "I hope they are absolutely sick to their stomachs like I am."
The loss more than likely removes Iowa from any NCAA Tournament talks unless the Hawkeyes can somehow find a way to win the Big Ten Conference Tournament against a stacked field of strong conference foes.
Instead, the young Hawkeyes, who have just one senior in the rotation, will look to make noise once against in the National Invitational Tournament.
"In the locker room we talked about the first four minutes, coming out and making a statement to put the game away," said sophomore Aaron White. "They made some plays, but you can't give up 62 percent and 39 points in the second half. That will get you beat on most nights.
"It was a tough second half. Down the stretch, I don't think we played as confidently as we should have."
Roy Devyn Marble did have 18 points against the Cornhusksers and Aaron White added 15 points and 13 rebounds, but the Hawkeyes (17-10, 6-8) once again failed to come up big in the clutch on the road.
It was Iowa’s sixth loss decided by four points or less this season in Big Ten play.
Senior Eric May added 10 points for the second straight game for Iowa, which shot just 37 percent from the floor in the game but lost despite holding a 19-0 advantage in bench points.
The Hawkeyes could do no wrong in the first half and led 41-25 at the break. That would slowly dwindle in the second half and with the shot clock winding down in the closing seconds of the game, Dylan Talley buried the go-ahead 3-pointer to give Nebraska the lead with 9.8 seconds to play.
Mike Gesell’s desperation 3 on Iowa’s final possession was off and the upset at the Bob Devaney Center sent the Hawkeyes back down Interstate 80 wondering what might have been and, better yet, what should have been.
"I am kind of tired of people saying we're young and next year, this and that," said White. "We're talented enough to do things this year. These are tough experiences, but I think we're going to get better from it."
Nebraska led at just three points in the game. The Huskers led 2-0 to start the game but did not have a better score than the Hawkeyes until Brandon Ubel hit a jumper to give Nebraska a 60-57 lead with 1:44 to go in the game.
White connected on a trey to tie the game but Talley put the dagger through the hearts of the Hawkeyes on his way to a game-high 18 points.
Shavon Shields also had 17 points and seven boards for the Huskers, who improved to 13-14 overall and 4-10 in Big Ten play. Ubel had 12 points and eight boards in the win, while Ray Gallegos had 11. Nebraska was a plus-eight in the paint and had 17 points off Iowa’s 12 turnovers.
Iowa returns to action Wednesday, hosting Purdue at 7:36 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.